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VCU Massey Cancer Center and Bank of America announce $150,000 grant to combat cancer health disparities across Virginia

Nov 10, 2021

Bank of America partner with Massey

Bank of America and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center today announced a gift of $150,000 from Bank of America to VCU Massey Cancer Center to combat cancer health inequities.

The grant, which will be distributed over three years, will advance Massey’s work through the Office of Health Equity and Disparities Research, which leads initiatives aimed at reducing disparities in cancer incidence and improving outcomes for individuals facing cancer, particularly those in traditionally underserved urban and rural communities across Virginia.

The $150,000 commitment is part of a $1.25 Billion national commitment by Bank of America to advance racial equality and economic opportunity across the nation, with a focus on four pillars: healthcare, jobs and reskilling, small businesses and housing. The grant fits within Bank of America’s community healthcare access and education area, with a special focus on impacting communities of color.

“We are proud to partner with Bank of America to help us advance these efforts and move toward a future without cancer and a future without cancer inequalities in communities across Virginia,” said Dr. Robert A. Winn, director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at VCU Massey Cancer CEnter.

Winn, who took the helm at Massey in December 2019 and serves as senior associate dean for cancer innovation, has been nationally recognized as a leader in the area of cancer disparities by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, among others. 

“At Massey, we are committed to ensuring that every person, no matter who you are or where you live, has equal access to outstanding care and education about prevention and early detection. It is our driving force, and we will not rest until we see cancer health equity for all,” added Winn.

“Bank of America is dedicated to providing opportunity for all citizens,” says Victor Branch, President, Bank of America Richmond.  “Supporting organizations such as VCU Massey Cancer Center that are committed to making a real difference through innovative initiatives to reduce cancer and other health disparities is just one of the ways we are helping improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

The grant will directly support Massey’s Office of Health Equity and Disparities Research (OHEDR), led by Vanessa Sheppard, Ph.D., associate director for Community Outreach Engagement and Health Disparities at Massey. Dr. Sheppard’s team focuses on biological, clinical and social determinants of cancer disparities, conducting community engagement and outreach and increasing clinical studies and participation among minority groups. The funds will also support the acquisition and operations of a mobile health van to be deployed in 2022 in rural and urban areas served by Massey. 

While cancer affects all populations, certain groups face a greater risk of developing or dying from cancer due to social, environmental and economic disadvantages. Fifty-seven percent of Virginia's Black population resides in Massey’s catchment (or service) area, and 37% of Massey's patients are underrepresented minorities.  Despite progress, the cancer mortality rate today among Black Virginians is still 14% higher than whites.  

“Part of our work to change this dynamic is to focus on cancer hotspots within our catchment area; these are localities with higher than average cancer incidence and mortality rates,” says Sheppard.  Massey’s new mobile health van will provide on-site access to cancer education, prevention, screening and care coordination services at partner community locations in select communities within Massey's catchment area, including in Richmond's East End, Danville, Lawrenceville, Emporia, Petersburg and Martinsville, Virginia. The van is expected to reach these communities in 2022, with support from Bank of America among others. 

Bank of America has a history of supporting Massey and cancer health equity in communities across Virginia. The bank supported Massey with grants in 2018 and 2019 to help launch and sustain Stepping STONE (Survivors Taking on Nutrition and Exercise), an initiative to support Black breast cancer survivors through exercise interventions.

“Bank of America’s early commitment to our work through Stepping STONE made a real difference in helping us to understand the importance of exercise and nutrition for Black breast cancer patients,” says Sheppard. “Stepping STONE helped set the stage for the work we are doing now to reduce disparities. Bank of America’s support of Massey continues to make an impact.”

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