Jul 15, 2022 9:00 AM

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Summit participant stands at chair in auditorium to address other participants

As the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West, Huntsman Cancer Institute recently formalized its commitment to this vast, and often underserved area, working to reduce the cancer burden throughout the region, through bidirectional collaboration with community partners. 

On June 16, Huntsman Cancer Institute convened the inaugural Mountain West Cancer Summit, to foster collaboration and increase alignment between existing programs and services. Dozens of leaders representing every Mountain West state–Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah–attended, representing a diverse group of stakeholders: primary care associations, state health departments and cancer coalitions, the Indian Health Service, American Indian tribal leaders, the American Cancer Society, and Huntsman Cancer Institute’s affiliate hospitals, along with patients and caregivers.

Emily Richards, board member of the Comprehensive Cancer Alliance for Idaho, engages with other summit guests
Emily Richards, board member of the Comprehensive Cancer Alliance for Idaho, engages with other summit guests

“Huntsman Cancer Institute has a longstanding relationship with the Mountain West,” says Neli Ulrich, PhD, MS, executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute and professor of population health sciences at the University of Utah. “The summit was an opportunity to have so many inspiring leaders here in person at our cancer center to share big ideas and perspectives as we strategize to make an even greater impact in advancing a cancer-free frontier.”

The day long summit encouraged idea sharing across two break-out sessions, one to convene leaders within their respective states and another to connect peers working in similar domains across state lines. Discussions centered around policy and communications, data and evaluation, strategic cancer control interventions, reducing health disparities, and improving access to prevention, screening, treatment, and clinical trials for patients, among others. A particular theme was on the rural geographic nature of the region, a unifying thread that presents logistical obstacles to deliver cancer prevention, education, screening modalities, and access to care. “Distance is a disparity when people need to access cancer services, such as life-saving screening” notes Dr. Ulrich.

Summit guests and Huntsman Cancer Institute staff pose for a group photo
Summit guests and Huntsman Cancer Institute staff pose for a group photo

“We are grateful to each of the leaders who attended and participated in the summit,” says Garrett Harding, Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement. “Participants left feeling energized and motivated about this collaborative work. These leaders are making a real difference in alleviating the cancer burden of Mountain West residents and we are grateful to be partners in this work.”

In the coming months, Huntsman Cancer Institute’s community outreach and engagement teams will continue the conversation, traveling and visiting summit attendees to inform action plans and collaborate on opportunities that improve the health of all residents in the Mountain West.

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