Inaugural Prostate Cancer Symposium Brings Together African-American Men, Healthcare Providers, and Researchers

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(From left to right): Kenneth Carpenter of Carpenter Primary Healthcare and Prostate Cancer Survivor with Everyone at the Table organizers Shannon Christy, PhD, of Moffitt Cancer Center; Michelle Martin, PhD, FACSM, of UTHSC; and Raegan W. Durant, MD, MPH, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. (Photo by Natalie Brewer/UTHSC)

Memphian and prostate cancer survivor Kenneth Carpenter understands the power of education and conversation.

“When I was diagnosed, I knew I needed to educate myself on prostate cancer and start talking about it,” Carpenter said. “I needed to ‘man up to prostate cancer.’ Men, in particular African-American men, are quiet about their health, and are particularly closed-mouthed when it comes to talking about prostate cancer. I gave a testimonial at my fraternity and was amazed to see how many of my brothers had either survived, were living with, or knew someone who was affected by prostate cancer.”

Carpenter’s story is just one example of the inspiration behind the “Everyone at the Table” symposium. Hosted in Memphis at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) on June 17-18, the inaugural symposium brings together researchers, community members, and health care providers who are working to identify the best ways to engage African-American men in prostate and colorectal cancer (CRC) research studies.

According to research, prostate and colorectal cancer health disparities exact a tremendous toll on African-American men across the cancer continuum, from prevention and screening through treatment and survivorship. Data collected over the past 20 years shows African-American men continue to have the highest incidence and mortality rates of prostate, CRC, and lung/bronchus cancer compared to men of other races/ethnicities. The symposium is specifically designed to highlight the most promising approaches to enroll African-American men in studies to prevent cancer, detect cancer early, and have the best health outcomes as a cancer survivor.

“Advancing our understanding of how to engage minorities in research remains a top priority at the national and local level,” said Michelle Martin, PhD, FACSM, an academic organizer for the symposium and director of the Center for Innovation in Health Equity Research: A Community Cancer Alliance for Transformative Change, professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine, and co-director of the Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute at UTHSC. “The Everyone at the Table symposium moves beyond the traditional academic conference organization. By shifting the paradigm, we are providing an unparalleled opportunity for community members to offer key insights and interpretations of the research literature and guidance about culturally appropriate ways to engage African-American males in cancer research.”

Presented by UTHSC and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, symposium attendees are spending most of the two-days at the UTHSC Student-Alumni Center, 800 Madison Avenue, Memphis, where they will engage in networking opportunities, interactive discussions, and hear from invited experts. A networking reception was held on Monday, June 17 at the National Civil Rights Museum, 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis.

Invited experts include leading researchers in CRC and prostate cancer. The symposium’s planners also intentionally engaged scholars who do not focus on cancer to “expand our thinking,” said Raegan Durant, MD, MPH, associate professor of Medicine in the Divisions of Preventive Medicine and General Internal Medicine at UAB and academic symposium organizer. Notable scholars include Melicia Whitt Glover, PhD, MPH, founder and president of Gramercy Research Group, and Mark Alexander, PhD, leader within 100 Black Men of America Inc., and co-chair of the Health and Wellness Committee.

“Rather than working in silos limited to intramural discussions among only cancer researchers, our invited experts bring additional multidisciplinary expertise in men’s health and hail from different organizations,” said Dr. Durant. “The diverse group will bring different perspectives to advance our understanding of how best to engage African-American males in cancer research.”

Symposium findings will be broadly disseminated to equip cancer researchers, health care providers, and community residents alike with the information and tools needed to optimize the representation and retention of African-American males in cancer research studies.

“This symposium offers an important opportunity to advance our understanding of how to best engage African-American men in research studies to decrease their cancer burden,” said Shannon Christy, PhD, assistant member in the Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior at Moffitt Cancer Center, and member of the symposium’s academic organization team. “By bringing together both community members and academicians committed to addressing cancer health disparities, we are well-positioned to make a significant contribution to improve cancer outcomes and promote health equity.”

For more information, call 901.448.1771 or see the symposium’s website: www.uthsc.edu/everyone-at-the-table/.