ROSA Café series strengthens community-research collaboration

Oct. 12, 2023
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A woman with long brown hair speaks to people sitting at a table.

Dr. Monica Yellowhair, COE interim associate director, speaks to attendees of the ROSA café on Sept. 29, 2023.

In the next step to their successful ROSA cafés, the University of Arizona Cancer Center Community Outreach and Engagementteam added a new valuable innovation—they are inviting former event participants to offer Cancer Center scientists immediate feedback on their prospective research projects and present important insights on their audience connection.

The COE’s goal is to provide an ongoing dialogue between researchers, community members, and survivors that will reshape the landscape of cancer research, making it more inclusive, transparent, and impactful.

“The reason we personally invited participants to join this group comes from the idea that since they were willing to take a survey for cancer research, there is interest there to help in the research process itself,” said Juan Contreras II, research program administrator for COE. “They want to learn from researchers and would provide insightful feedback from the communities they represent. This fulfills ROSA's overall mission of bilateral education between researchers and the community.”

Following each of the special Rosa Café sessions, the outreach team provides the doctors with an extensive report that includes a transcript of their café discussion, all questions or suggestions expressed from the community members, survey results, and comments on any topics that were not explicitly stated in the survey questions.

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Dr. Alejandro Recio Boiles

Dr. Alejandro Recio Boiles speaks to participants of the ROSA Café on Sept. 29.

At the latest ROSA Café series on Sept. 29 at the Fred Archer Center in San Juan Park, Alejandro Recio Boiles, MD, FACP, clinical assistant professor of medicine and Cynthia Miranti, PhD, professor and interim department head of cellular and molecular medicine, led a discussion on their project centered around prostate cancer.

The presentation included basic knowledge of prostate cancer and stressed the important role community members can fill developing new discoveries.

“The goal of this project is to understand the biology of prostate cancer in Hispanic patients,” Dr. Recio Boiles said. “Our earliest research has shown that they present with a more aggressive disease than expected.”

With a dedicated commitment to the well-being of the local population, Dr. Miranti reinforced this perspective, emphasizing that active participation is essential. She said that this collaboration can serve as a catalyst for discovering innovative approaches to engage with the community.

Highlighting the importance of mutual learning in fostering community engagement and research inclusivity, Contreras said that the main objective of these cafes is to make research more accessible.  He said that these events facilitate a two-way exchange where the community educates scientists about their values and concerns, while researchers provide insights into the scientific process and cancer biology knowledge.

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Dr. Cindy Miranti

David Rodriguez, a cancer survivor, speaks with Dr. Cindy Miranti.

David Rodriguez, a cancer survivor, shared his motivation for attending the café, and his newfound mission.

"All the information was so overwhelming (when I was diagnosed), but I had faith and believed in the research,” Rodriguez said. “I thought, ‘somebody wakes up every day trying to save my life,’ so I want to be a part of these events and I want to help survivors.”

The ROSA Café series highlights the indispensable role of community engagement and its transformative impact.  Dr. Miranti said that during these events, which are designed to educate men about prostate cancer, a notable number of women attend expressing concerns about ensuring the well-being of the men in their families.

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ROSA Café

ROSA Café participants sign in for the event on Sept. 29.

“It’s really about going into the community, helping them connect with us to say, ‘This is a safe space, and we are here to help you,’” Miranti said. “Maybe engaging with the women will ultimately help engage the men. That’s what we don’t know. We don’t know how it works in your families. Where are you most comfortable communicating about these topics?”

The next ROSA Café is Oct. 28 with Dawn Coletta, PhD, associate professor in the UArizona Department of Medicine. The final special audience ROSA Café is Nov.18. After, the COE will continue their ROSA Cafés with a general audience.