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Outreach and Community Initiatives

Community Outreach and Engagement

The University of Kansas Cancer Center is at the front line, working in and collaborating with our communities to eliminate cancer disparities. This community-engaged approach is crucial to our understanding of the health challenges faced by those we serve, particularly those who suffer from cancer disproportionately.

A fundamental element of the cancer center’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation is Community Outreach and Engagement. Our research is driven by how cancer affects those living in our catchment area, which includes the state of Kansas and western Missouri, with a focus on populations who are at increased risk of developing or dying from cancer. “Catchment area” is a term used by the NCI to indicate the defined geographic area in which the cancer center concentrates its research, education and outreach efforts.

What does health equity mean? The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health defines health equity as the attainment of the highest level of health for all people.

We strive to promote health equity through the following aims:

  • Identifying and monitoring the cancer burden and needs in the catchment area.
  • Collaborating with community leaders and other stakeholders to help the cancer center focus its cancer research, outreach and education activities on community priorities.
  • Stimulating and supporting research that addresses cancers and concerns specific to the catchment area and as guided by community stakeholders.
  • Performing cancer outreach and education activities to reduce cancer burden in the catchment area in collaboration with community stakeholders.

Couple in a meeting.

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Representatives of Juntos Center.

We work with community members to advise us on their needs and priorities so we can dedicate efforts to better serve our catchment area. Ronald Chen, MD, MPH, Associate Director, Health Equity

The area we serve

The cancer center’s catchment area encompasses a diverse set of communities. This includes a rapidly growing Latino community, black/African Americans, American Indians, immigrant communities and elderly rural whites – all of whom tend to have difficulty accessing care. For example, African American women are more likely than white women to die of breast cancer, and rural Kansans are more likely to die of colorectal cancer compared to Kansans living in urban and semi-urban communities. 

Catchment area numbers

  • 4.5 million people across 92,000 square miles
  • All 105 counties in Kansas and 18 counties in western Missouri, 93 of which are rural
  • Four American Indian reservations
  • 22,000 annual cancer cases / 8,500 cancer deaths
  • Most common cancers: breast, prostate, lung, colorectal and melanoma.

Patient and Investigator Voices Organizing Together, PIVOT for short, is a patient research advocacy initiative at The University of Kansas Cancer Center. To learn more about PIVOT, click here or email

Team group photo
SHE project team members Megha Ramaswamy, Joi Wickliffe, Ashlyn Lipnicky and Sherri Anderson

Bridging the gap

Cancer center researchers are examining ways to reduce cancer disparities. Because the issue is so multifaceted, so are our efforts.  

Public education is an important aspect of cancer control. This includes increasing awareness of risk factors that increase the risk for developing cancer as well as promoting earlier cancer detection. One of the ways the cancer center promotes education is through its weekly Facebook Live series, Bench to Bedside. Viewers can tune in to learn about the latest research, treatment advances and screening guidelines and pose questions to experts.

Regular screening is linked to early detection, which can mean better outcomes. In some cases, screening, like colorectal cancer screening, can detect pre-cancerous conditions to prevent cancer from developing in the first place. The cancer center partners with its outreach network, Masonic Cancer Alliance, to provide screening opportunities to people living in our catchment area.

Doctor screening for skin cancer

Our research

Another important aspect of reducing the cancer burden is through research. KU Cancer Center has several research programs to find the best ways to reduce risk factors that can cause cancer. Examples of our research include: 

  • Cancer center researchers focus on methods to improve colorectal cancer screening in low-income and minority populations. The Native Touch to Screen program worked with partners on American Indian reservations in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota to deliver education and free screening kits. Another study, Ready Aim Screen, collaborates with Kansas City Area safety-net clinics on multiple efforts to increase screening rates to greater than 80% among clinic patients.
  • A three-arm, five-year, PCORI-funded study, called RE-POWER (Rural Engagement in Primary Care for Optimizing Weight Reduction), assesses different approaches to treating obesity in rural areas. Excess weight increases risk for certain types of cancers, and obesity rates tend to be higher in rural communities.
  • A campaign called JUNTOS Contra el Cáncer, which involves cancer center researchers, as well as members of JUNTOS and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, seeks to increase awareness of clinical trials and biospecimen collection to empower Latinos to make informed decisions about cancer treatment.
  • About 30% of American Indians use tobacco. “All Nations Breath of Life” was established by KU Medical Center researchers and regional American Indian communities. It is the first scientifically tested, culturally tailored smoking cessation program designed for American Indians. 
Dr. Allen Greiner

Community Outreach and Engagement Leaders

Dr. Ronald Chen

Ronald Chen, MD, MPH, Associate Director, Health Equity

Hope Krebill

Hope Krebill, MSW, BSN, RN, Assistant Director, Outreach

Gary Doolittle

Gary Dolittle, MD, MPH, Medical Director, Masonic Cancer Alliance

Allen Greiner

Allen Griener, MD, MPH, Medical Director, Kansas Patients and Providers Engaged in Prevention

Cancer center leader Christie Befort.

Christie Befort, PhD, Associate Director, Cancer Prevention & Control

Cancer center leader Danny Welch.

Danny Welch, PhD, Associate Director, Education

Cheryl Jernigan

Cheryl Jernigan, Patient Research Advocate, PIVOT

PIVOT leadership member Broderick Crawford.

Broderick Crawford, Chair, KU Cancer Center Community Advisory Board

Our efforts are supported by the cancer center’s Community Advisory Board, which includes members across our communities.

Community-based research programs

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