Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

Community-Engaged Research

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Simmons Cancer Center annually awards grants in community-engaged research. This research pairs Simmons faculty with community organizations in shared efforts to reduce cancer rates among at-risk populations and give everyone a fair chance at good health (health equity).

Each award includes up to $50,000, delivered over an 18-month period, for basic/laboratory, translational, clinical, or population research focused on the following:

  • Cancers with the highest incidence and morbidity in Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Cancers affecting some groups more than others (disparities) because of health care barriers posed by language differences, low literacy, financial hardship, or lack of transportation

Types of Research

  • Basic research studies how cancer develops and progresses in people.
  • Translational research moves new treatments from the laboratory to the clinic and takes observations from the clinic to design new treatments in the laboratory.
  • Clinical research uses data from people or samples of tissue to find new and better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat cancer.
  • Population research seeks to understand factors that impact health and cause cancer in various populations and to determine the best strategies for preventing cancer, detecting it early, and improving the patient experience.

Project proposals may relate to any aspect of the cancer continuum – from cancer prevention and screening to treatment and survivorship. However, proposals must reflect community input and/or involvement in project design, implementation, analysis, communication of findings, and recommendations for future study.

Simmons welcomes organizations of all types as research collaborators. We think of faith-based organizations, clinics and health care systems, for-profit businesses, nonprofit entities, schools, neighborhood centers, and chambers of commerce as just a few of our potential partners. If you have questions about becoming a research collaborator or would like to suggest research ideas, please email OfficeofCOEE@utsouthwestern.edu.

The 2020 funding cycle for community-engaged research is now closed. We congratulate this year’s awardees:

Read more on these partnerships and how the community-engaged research program honors a Simmons colleague.

Here's how UT Southwestern is working with other community members to advance health equity among all residents:

Community-Assisted Research (CARE) Food Bank Access Initiative

CARE faculty from UT Southwestern and the University of Dallas are on a mission to ensure that all households, especially the low-income and underserved, can meet their basic needs. To accomplish this goal, CARE collaborates with Crossroads Community Services, a Dallas nonprofit that supplies nutritious food and supportive education through an effective, efficient, and equitable charitable food distribution system. CARE uses Crossroads-rich client data to identify unmet needs, underlying barriers, and opportunities to improve food pantry service delivery.

Crossroads determined that the traditional "food bank-food pantry member" model posed access barriers in Dallas County. Access barriers include a limited number of food pantries, often many miles away from food insecure families and individuals who need more nutritious food, and a limited capacity of many food pantries to provide substantial amounts of food to each household. For community members with limited transportation, time constraints, and/or health challenges, it can be difficult to travel to a centralized food pantry.

Crossroads replaced the traditional centralized food bank-member pantry model with a “community distribution partner” (CDP) model. The new CDP model extends the reach of food distribution across a larger geographic area by engaging a myriad of organizations who want to nourish their neighbors but do not want to become a full-fledged pantry operation. CDPs are local entities that re-distribute food from convenient locations in clients’ neighborhoods. They include community centers, places of worship, public housing sites, and other non-profits whose core mission is not feeding people.

Through community-academic partnership and peer-reviewed grant funding, CARE researchers and Crossroads staff collected and analyzed research data. Their analysis showed that the novel CDP model improved:

  • access to charitable food,
  • regularity of client receipt of groceries,
  • food security, and
  • social support of clients.
Population-Based Biorepositories

Recognizing the need for biorepositories (biospecimen libraries) that represent all populations – including racial and ethnic minorities who experience undue health burdens, struggle to access health care, and face significant life stressors – UT Southwestern researchers talked with Parkland Memorial Hospital’s diverse Community Advisory Panel to explore member interest in a Parkland biorepository.   

Panel members liked the idea of having a positive impact on the health of their families and individual communities by participating in a biorepository. They shared insights on how best to build trust with potential donors and facilitate ongoing participation in the biobank. 

Read more about the Parkland biobank.

HPV Vaccination Environmental Scan

In 2018, UT Southwestern researchers interviewed 29 health care professionals and thought leaders from seven Dallas-Fort Worth counties to solicit their feedback on increasing HPV vaccination through coalition-building. Findings led to a “best practices” report for researchers, educators, and health care providers who want to engage successfully with vaccine-hesitant parents. 

See recommendations for coalition-building.

Learn more about how UT Southwestern and Simmons Cancer Center are delivering results for Texas.

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