Community outreach and engagement are the heart of our mission and science at the University of Illinois Cancer Center.
We’re located on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) but our science is rooted in erasing cancer health disparities in the diverse communities we serve throughout Cook County and in the state. The impact of our research in preventing, screening and treating cancer leads to lifesaving, equitable precision cancer care at UI Health and scientific discoveries that benefit all Illinois communities and beyond.
Community Outreach and Engagement
Our Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity works to foster strong partnerships between communities and our scientists, who are committed to addressing the cancer burden in communities based on local needs and priorities, while ensuring that our scientific advances in care are consistently accessible to communities.
Under the auspices of our Community Advisory Board and senior leadership, this vibrant, deeply experienced team works to build the capacity of community agencies and under-resourced health clinics, as well as partner in delivering comprehensive access to high-quality care at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and safety-net hospitals. The team also leverages data to advocate for policies that addresses structural drivers of health disparities.
Our more than 250 Cancer Center members hold academic appointments throughout UIC and at regional campuses in Rockford and Peoria. With interdisciplinary collaboration across the basic sciences, translational and population research, they create better, more equitable cancer care and access to novel treatments as a result of the diversity of our clinical trial participants – 79% of whom are African American or Latino.
Robust community outreach and engagement programs with racial and ethnic minority and other marginalized populations inform the work of our three research programs – Cancer Biology, Translational Research, and Cancer Prevention and Control – by learning and understanding community needs that then become research projects to discover and deliver equitable solutions.
Screening to Survivorship
The partners vital to a patient’s cancer journey connect through the University of Illinois Cancer Center. Many of our members are physician-scientists who provide cancer care at UI Health, the academic health enterprise at UIC that includes a 445-bed hospital, more than 20 outpatient and specialty clinics plus the Mile Square Health Center network of 14 FQHC sites.
As part of the broad continuum of cancer care, our University of Illinois Cancer Center members conduct research and run clinic programs to increase access and use of cancer genetic services and to enhance family history documentation to aid in cancer risk assessment. They also partner with UI Health, Mile Square FQHCs, Wellness House and others to provide survivorship services, programs, clinics and research for people navigating life with cancer.
Training and Workforce Development
Our Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination team ensures equity and diversity are at the forefront of designing and building pipeline programs to train diverse cancer researchers, from elementary school to early-stage investigators. Their goal is to educate, support and retain trainees from underrepresented minority groups to address the needs of our patient population.
Philanthropic donations help us address access barriers by centering the community voice and lived experiences in our outreach, screening and treatment programs. Support from donors helps enable us to conduct community-informed research programs to drive equity in precision cancer care. And, it helps us to innovate workforce training and education, thereby assuring career pathways for all so that future scientists and clinicians reflect our national diversity.
Policy and Advocacy
The University of Illinois Cancer Center had a leadership role in collaborating with the Illinois Department of Public Health to develop and implement an engagement strategy for community and legislative members in support of the Illinois Comprehensive Cancer Control Program’s development of the 2022-2027 Illinois Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan. The plan is meant to serve as a “roadmap to guide cancer prevention, screening, treatment and survivorship activities throughout Illinois.” Our advocacy work has included funding for cancer prevention programs such as the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP), which provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured and underinsured people in Illinois.