community health fair, Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Comprehensive Cancer Center established the Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Health Equity (OCECHE) in 2010 as part of a renewed and expanded commitment to serve local communities through research, education and outreach programs.

Mission: The mission of the OCECHE is to serve as a bridge between the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center and academic and community stakeholders to promote equitable collaboration and eliminate cancer disparities through community capacity building, participatory research, advocacy and innovative education and training.

Vision: We seek to work with key stakeholders and community members who are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of their local communities with regards to cancer prevention and risk reduction, access to quality cancer care, promoting community centered collaborative research and supporting those at risk or living with a cancer diagnosis.

The OCECHE, under the direction of Karen Kim, MD, has formed strategic alliances with UChicago units and other healthcare organizations, as well as community, ethnic, and faith-based groups to create innovative programs that will increase access to care, reduce risk factors for cancer, reduce tobacco use, increase participation in cancer research and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and survivors.

Dr. Kim was joined by Nita Lee, MD, in 2015 as Faculty Director to help continue the expansion of community outreach and efforts.

The Comprehensive Cancer Center has a global presence, attracting cancer patients from around the world; however, our most important commitment is to the people of the Chicago metropolitan area and, particularly, the residents of surrounding neighborhoods including Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Washington Park and Woodlawn. Maintaining a vibrant, two-way conversation with our South Side neighbors helps Comprehensive Cancer Center members better understand and meet patient needs.

Our Team

Karen E Kim, MD, MS
Professor of Medicine
Dean for Faculty Affairs
Director, Center for Asian Health Equity
Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement

Nita Karnik Lee, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Section of Gynecologic Oncology
Faculty Director for Community Outreach and Engagement

Gina Curry, MPH, MBA
Director, Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Health Equity

Alia Poulos, MA, MPP
Education Outreach Specialist, Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Health Equity

Helen Lam, PhD, RN
Lead Community Health Educator, Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Health Equity


The OCECHE has developed programming and activity through robust partner engagement and capacity building, advocacy, education, and research activities in Chicago’s black, Asian and Hispanic communities.

Signature OCECHE programs and examples of collaborative community work include:

OCECHE staff lead efforts in the local African-American and Asian communities to disseminate NCI culturally-tailored education materials promoting cancer screening and early detection, clinical trial and biobanking participation. The Community Health Educators (CHEs) develop and foster meaningful collaborative relationships with many community- and faith-based organizations which can positively impact vulnerable community members.

OCECHE is an active participant in the National Cancer Institute’s Screen to Save program. Through Screen to Save, community health educators funded by the NCI’s National Outreach Network (NON) and Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (PACHE), will provide culturally-tailored, evidence-based colorectal cancer information, education, and screening resources within racially and ethnically diverse and rural communities nationwide.

An interactive, web-based breast health education tool that leads patients and community health educators through a journey along the continuum of breast health and cancer (i.e., screening, treatment and survivorship). The tool was launched in 2015 in English, Spanish and Chinese language versions.

The only bilingual formalized cancer survivorship support group for Chinese speaking cancer survivors and caregivers, meeting the needs of this vulnerable immigrant community with a known high burden of gastrointestinal and lung cancer.

For more information, contact Helen Lam at

A program to establish a multilevel, multifaceted framework to increase colorectal cancer screening, prevention and control among Asian Americans, Hispanic and African Americans in Cook County. This program, funded by a grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is in partnership with a diverse group of healthcare system sector partners (e.g., UChicago’s new Center for Asian Health Equity, Heartland Health Centers, the Federally Qualified Health Center Miles Square Clinic and Asian Human Services Family Health Center).

A culturally adapted, patient-centered cancer awareness and screening program begun in 2011. With input from our medical students, as well as community members, programs are adapted to the unique characteristics of each neighborhood to help close gaps in healthcare knowledge and encourage healthier lifestyles.

The OCECHE, particularly its CHEs, will play an important role in education and recruitment within diverse communities in support of the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s role in the Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium.


The Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Health Equity (OCECHE) fosters strategic alliances with healthcare groups, as well as community, ethnic, and faith-based organizations, to increase cancer knowledge in the community and engage participation in research and clinical trials. These organizations can be important social anchors in many communities, offering unique opportunities to reach underserved populations.

Listed below is a sampling of the strategic partnerships that the OCECHE maintains: