December's Hero of the Month Q&A: Colon Cancer Researcher Charles Rogers, PhD, CHES

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Dr. Rogers is pictured second from left

Be Seen, Get Screened's Hero of the Month series highlights the work of inspiring individuals on the front line in the fight against colon cancer. In our latest edition, we talked to Charles Rogers, PhD, CHES, (pictured above, second from left) a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Minnesota Medical School, where he specializes in Health Education.

Be Seen, Get Screened: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background, especially any experience you have with colon cancer and colon cancer screening?

Dr. Rogers:

(on his professional experience)

Currently, I serve as a National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Disparities Post-doctoral Fellow with the Cancer-Related Health Disparities Education and Career Development Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Prior, I obtained a Ph.D. in Health Education from Texas A&M University (2013), M.S. in Applied Statistics from Kennesaw State University (2010), and B.S. in Applied Mathematics with a minor in Accounting from North Carolina State University (2006).

My academic training in applied mathematics and statistics, coupled with health education and behavior, provides me with a unique perspective for translating research findings into practical prevention strategies that can be used by government agencies, policy makers, communities and private health care organizations.

Yet, this training has not permitted me to expand my research expertise in evaluating and informing public policy that positively impacts population health. Thus, I am also currently pursuing an MPH focusing on Public Health Administration & Policy. In regards to research interests mine are as follows: African American men’s health, colorectal cancer (CRC) awareness and prevention, health disparities, community-based interventions, and survey methodology.

(on his experience with colon cancer)

I had never heard of CRC until my aunt was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV during the fall of 2009. Before my aunt’s diagnosis, I only heard conversations about breast and prostate cancer in the African American community.

Two years later (summer 2011) while pursuing my doctorate, I was afforded the opportunity to study this preventable disease in more detail when I was selected as 1 of 8 graduate students nationwide to conduct intensive research with the University of Michigan’s Summer Immersion Program in Health Disparities Research. Specifically, I conducted a systematic review and assisted with survey research on “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Surgical Outcomes and the Quality of Surgical Care” under the supervision of chief colorectal surgeon and health services researcher Dr. Arden Morris.

The purpose of this 11-week project was to understand how non-clinical factors impact post-surgical outcomes and the quality of surgical care among African American patients with CRC. After leaving Michigan, I realized that there was much more for me to learn about CRC, so I returned to Texas A&M to determine how “bad” the problem really was and where gaps in the literature existed.

When I learned in 2011 that Africa American men died in disproportionately higher numbers (45% higher) than white men, I set out on a quest to eliminate this disparity. Since the incidence (25%) and mortality (50%) rates for African American men continue to increase juxtaposed to their white counterparts, more work is still needed.

BSGS: Based on your research and personal experiences, what kinds of education and intervention programs do you think have the most impact on screening rates for colon cancer and other chronic diseases?

Dr. Rogers: Culturally appropriate/tailored education tools and interventions; community-based participatory research that permits the community to assist with research studies from conceptualization to implementation to dissemination; community dialogues in informal, community-friendly settings; studies that provide “free” screening services.

BSGS: In what ways are you currently working to raise awareness for colon cancer?

Dr. Rogers: There many ways I continuously work to raise awareness for CRC, but to name a few…

I not only speak at national conferences held by organizations such as the Society for Public Health Education and the American Public Health Association, but almost whenever and wherever possible. I have been on a number of radio shows here in the Twin Cities, spoke at some predominately African American family reunions, and led some community dialogue sessions on eliminating CRC disparities among African American men as well as improving their health period, which is a national disgrace.

This summer, I was afforded the invaluable opportunity via the International Leadership institute to lead CRC awareness and prevention efforts in Eldoret, Kenya. Also, I led a research study at the Minnesota State Fair this year where I tested a conceptual model of factors influencing intentions to screen for CRC among nearly 300 African American men in Minnesota employing on-line survey research delivered though iPads.

Since I also had a giant inflatable interactive colon exhibit present (with the intended purpose of increasing CRC awareness and prevention among everyone—young, old, all ethnicities), my study site yielded more than 24,600 study site visitors in only 7 days.

I’m still putting the pieces of the puzzle together for this innovate study, but hope that it informs the design of health promotion and early-intervention CRC prevention programs responsive to the needs of African American men in Minnesota, and beyond.

BSGS: Why do you think it is important for people to be educated about the risk factors, symptoms, and screening options available for colon cancer and other chronic diseases?

Dr. Rogers: Simply put, CRC is a disease that NO ONE has to die from. Screening really does save lives, but can only do this if people utilize it. Whether its screening for CRC, breast cancer, diabetes...Be Seen, Get Screened!

In regards to the risk factors, it’s extremely important for people to know how their everyday lifestyle behaviors influence their health. Everything we do is either helping us live longer or doing a disservice to ourselves. Our health is really in our hands.

BSGS: Aside from screening, what are other behaviors people can undertake in order to lower their cancer risk?

Dr. Rogers: Obtain regular physical activity; Increase fruit and vegetable intake; Partake in a high-fiber and low-fat diet; Avoid being overweight and/or obese; Limit alcohol consumption; Limit tobacco use; Limit processed foods; Limit the preparation of foods at high temperatures (e.g., frying)

BSGS: Do you have anything else to share with Be Seen, Get Screened today?

Dr. Rogers: I greatly appreciate the opportunity to connect with you all! If anyone is interested in consulting or collaborating with me, please feel free to connect with me via email at crrogers(at)umn.edu, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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