Roswell Park has launched the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research, a first of its kind, dedicated to reducing the impact cancer has on the Indigenous communities from Western New York to the rest of the world. The center’s staff will work tirelessly to ensure a cancer care continuum from prevention through survivorship and tap into a network extending from Canada to the South Pacific.
Indigenous Roots in Western New York
Rodney Haring, PhD, MSW leads the charge. The member of the Seneca nation, Haring learned a great deal about community and positive peace of mind from his Haudenosaunee culture. He is taking great original teachings of indigenous America to the development of the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer center—the first initiative of its kind in the Northeast.
Partner Network and Works
By building partner networks across North America, the center and staff will focus on educational events, host health screenings as well as undertake research and develop action plans to address not only imminent health disparities but fundamental larger issues impacting wellness—such as our relationship to the environment. Dr. Harding seeks to harness the best of both worlds—the academic medical center and the deep and rich knowledge of the indigenous cultures of North America.
Comment on Center
Dr. Harding noted, “The creation of this center, which will be inspired by indigenous knowledge and ancestral wisdom, is historic and monumental” and he continued, “Roswell Park’s Center for Indigenous Cancer Research will not only advance cutting-edge cancer research to, for and with indigenous territories, Nations and populations worldwide. And through our focus on educational opportunities, the center will expand Roswell Park’s values of commitment, hope, respect and inspiration for generations to come.”
“The Seneca Nation appreciates the work that Roswell Park and Dr. Haring are conducting in Native communities to ensure that comprehensive cancer care addresses the unique circumstances of Native communities when dealing with cancer, including prevention education,” says Seneca Nation President Rickey L. Armstrong Sr. “We look forward to our continued collaborative relationship with Dr. Haring and Roswell Park.”
Building on Existing Collaboration
Roswell Park has collaborated with several sovereign nations, including the Seneca and Tuscarora, and is now extending these efforts well beyond Western New York. Dr. Haring and colleagues have initiated collaborations with two ancestrally related tribes, the St. Regis Mohawk in north-central New York State and the Kahnawake Mohawk territory near Montreal, Quebec, working with tribal leaders, health-delivery teams and rural providers to conduct roundtable discussions focused on cancer care quality improvement, research and envisioning future projects.
“One of our goals is to ensure a culturally attuned cancer care continuum from prevention through to survivorship and palliative care,” says Dr. Haring. “That’s really important in a community where we see disparities in many cancers as well as co-occurring conditions affecting Indigenous communities. We also will work to improve education about cancer screening and clinical trials, and we won’t do this work alone. Collaboration will be a hallmark of this center and will be built into everything we do.”
Roswell Park Collaborative Deal with U.S. Indian Health Service
The center fulfills some of the benchmarks established through Roswell Park’s 2016 collaborative agreement with the Indian Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, another first-of-its-kind initiative focused on health care, cancer prevention, facilitation of research and expansion of career and educational opportunities.
The center’s work is being led by Dr. Haring along with an intertribal Community Advisory Board and three additional dedicated staff members: Whitney Ann Henry (Tuscarora), Clinical Research Associate; William Maybee (Seneca), Community Relations Coordinator; and Josie Raphaelito, MPH (Dine/Navajo), Research Project Coordinator. Key to its efforts will be partnerships with Indigenous communities across North America, including ongoing interactions with Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.
Since he joined the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement within Roswell Park’s Department of Cancer Prevention and Control in 2015, Dr. Haring and colleagues have earned more than $2.1 million toward initiatives in Indigenous communities from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Aetna Foundation, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.
The team has built an international collaborative research network with Indigenous researchers from as far away as Norway, New Zealand and Pacific Island Nations. Their work has been marked by extensive collaboration on outreach and prevention initiatives in both Native urban settings and rural Indigenous territories, and has helped create learning and internship opportunities for Indigenous high school and college students.
Rodney Haring, PhD, MSW