Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. At Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund, it is important to celebrate our Hispanic and Latinx coworkers and patients every day, and from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 we are specifically lifting up their voices and experiences.

At Dana-Farber, we envision a world free of the fear and burden of cancer. The Institute’s 2022 Cancer-Focused Community Health Needs Assessment revealed that Boston residents who identify as Hispanic have lower rates of screenings for cervical and prostate cancer when compared to white residents. And Latina women have higher incidences of liver cancer compared to white women.

Increasing access to cancer screening and care to improve health equity in the Hispanic community requires a multifaceted approach. Our Community Benefits Department includes Bilingual Community Outreach Specialist Valerie Abrigo Rivera, who utilizes a culturally sensitive lens to provide Spanish-language support to community residents. She credits strong local partnerships with El Mundo newspaper, La Hora del Café, and My Health Fair for promoting free skin cancer screenings and sun safety tips aboard the Blum Family Resource Center Van. The van visited the Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) at Villa Victoria’s community event in the South End in August in addition to its public beach and community screening commitments. Community Benefits will continue to cultivate and sustain these and other key partnerships to provide up-to-date screening recommendations, such as the latest mammography screening guidelines published earlier this year.

Researchers and the next generation of trainees are also critical allies in improving health equity. This summer, UMass Boston student Carolay Suarez Peña partnered with Harvard Medical School Research Fellow Michael Anne Kyle, PhD, RN, through the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Summer Program to Advance Research Careers. They investigated administrative health care burdens faced by patients with a new or recurrent cancer diagnosis, specifically interviewing white, Black, and Hispanic patients. While the study is ongoing, their work has revealed that language barriers, cumbersome paperwork, and access to a fax machine are all barriers that can contribute to delayed or foregone care. For Suarez Peña, who hails from the Dominican Republic and hopes to become a physician assistant, this research echoes what she hears from older residents in her neighborhood and is vital to improving timely access to care and the patient experience.

Throughout September and October,  we invite everyone in our community to reflect on Hispanic Heritage Month and to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx people to history, culture, and medicine.

Help support research and care by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.