Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) Inaugural Report October 2020

Message from the Director

Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH, Director
"We find ways to improve health and health care delivery so that all types of people—from all types of backgrounds—have the opportunity to achieve their best possible health by focusing on research, community needs, and policies that center racial justice and transform systems and structures to advance health equity."

Dr. Simon's Recent Honors

Feinberg's 2020 Faculty Mentor of the Year Award Recipient

Crain’s 2020 Notable Health Care Hero Honoree

Weizmann Institute of Science Vision & Impact Award

Standing up for health equity means standing with BIPOC communities for justice.

Our Mission

To lift health for all by exposing root causes of health inequities and serving as a hub that pushes boundaries in research, education, workforce development, and community engagement.

Our Vision

To bridge the gaps between research, community needs, and policy by transforming systems and structures so that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their best possible health.

Our Values

  • Lift Community Voices: Our community-based participatory research projects seek guidance and collaboration from community leaders and organizations from the research design to the impact that persists beyond the completion of the projects.
  • Apply Health Equity Lens to Public Policies: We must acknowledge that the intention behind oppressive policies and practices matters less than their actual impact, and then take action with an anti-racist approach.
  • Transform Health Outcomes: To create transformational change, we must connect these areas that often operate in silos. We must ensure that the health care and research workforce is a diverse and inclusive one and that we train the next generation to serve with empathy and compassion to mitigate the health outcome disparities that are influenced by racism and implicit biases.
From top left to bottom left: Araceli Estrada (she/hers) - Program Assistant; Rabih Dahdouh (he/his) - Clinical Research Associate; Edgardo Ramirez (he/his) - Research Project Coordinator. From top center to bottom center: Laura Tom (she/hers) - Clinical Research Associate; Cassandra Osei (they/them) - Clinical Research Project Manager; Samantha Alonis (she/hers) - Strategic Operations Director; Catherine O'Brian (she/hers) - Scientific Editor. From top right to bottom right: Magdalena Nava (she/hers) - Clinical Research Associate; Sankirtana Danner (she/hers) - Clinical Research Associate; Ivy Leung (she/hers) - Clinical Research Project Manager.
Our team during COVID-19. Also featured are a few of our current T-37 Trainees: Anna Yang (bottom center), Nicolas Francone (far left center) and Johnathan Alhalel (far right center).
Alongside our work with community partners, CHET works with Northwestern Medicine (NM) health systems leaders, clinicians, faculty, residents/fellows, students, and staff to serve as a hub to create and support health equity related programming across NM, Feinberg School of Medicine (FSM), and Northwestern University (NU). CHET engages in collaborative efforts with NM Health Equity Teams from the medical student level to university-wide level.

These Health Equity Teams include: Human Resources, Community Affairs, the Dean's office on the Racial Justice Community Engagement Committee, the Dean of Education, the medical student Racial Justice committees, Government Affairs, and Civic Engagement with the NU Votes initiative.

We are a colorful community.

Lift Health For All

Engaging Community Members and Educating the Public

Many of CHET’s research projects, like ChicagoCHEC, are community-centered and host annual Community Forums. Additionally, we host and participate in multiple standalone activities that promote community engagement and information sharing with the public.

These activities include our monthly CHETchat Spotlight Series, our SkinnyTrees podcast, and other health equity related events. Future events will incorporate the voices of community advocates, policymakers, and researchers in pursuit of solutions to the same health equity issues, but from different angles.

CHETchat Spotlight Series highlights the equity work of our invited speakers and fosters dialogues and ideas about the ways that attendees can engage in work that promotes health equity. These events are open to the entire Northwestern community and the public.

SkinnyTrees: Lift Health for All Podcast aims to highlight voices of people from the research, community, and policy worlds who are doing work that advances health equity. By doing so, SkinnyTrees is creating an easy and accessible way for a larger audience to learn about the health equity work being conducted at Northwestern University and in the City of Chicago.

Special health equity related events are also hosted on an on-going basis.

Prioritizing Women's Health

  1. Black Maternal Heath Momnibus - Dr. Melissa Simon worked closely with the Black Maternal Health Caucus and Rep. Lauren Underwood’s office to assist in drafting the Black Maternal Health Momnibus bills. She and Northwestern University’s Center for Health Equity Transformation also endorsed the bills and connected with local partners and stakeholders to increase endorsement of these bills.
  2. Research Excellence in Gynecologic Cancer Health Disparities - CHET is home to a newly launched Northwestern University Cancer Health Equity Research SPORE (NU-CHERS), an National Cancer Institute funded developmental Specialized Program of Research Excellence. NU-CHERS will generate scientific findings and establish sustainable, collaborative, academic and community infrastructure that will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive translational cancer research program focused on gynecologic cancer health disparities – the first of its kind in the nation. The initial translational research focus of NU-CHERS is on endometrial and ovarian cancer disparities experienced by Black women. NU-CHERS will also spearhead the development of a centralized biobank of human gynecologic cancer tissue specimens to be used in health disparities research studies.
  3. Research Training and Outreach Focusing on Uterine Fibroids - CHET provides research training for undergraduate students and community outreach support to Northwestern’s Uterine Leiomyoma Research Center. Students from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds work on research projects focusing on the causes and treatments of uterine fibroids, the most common tumor found in women, and one that disproportionately affects African Americans.
  4. Women’s Reproductive Health Research Career Development (WRHR) Program - CHET’s Director, Dr. Melissa Simon, is the Research Director for Northwestern’s WRHR Program, which prepares early career faculty in Northwestern’s OBGYN Department to become successful independent investigators in women’s reproductive health research.

Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative

The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) is a U54 comprehensive cancer partnership between the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago that advances cancer health equity through meaningful scientific discovery, education, training, and community engagement.

ChicagoCHEC is an ongoing partnership that has successfully:

  1. Established transdisciplinary cancer disparities research programs in behavioral and social science, biomedical, and translational science
  2. Mobilized researchers, educators, community leaders, students, organizations, and patients in innovative cancer education and community engagement programs to improve health outcomes among Chicago’s low-income, minority, and disability communities
  3. Provided training, mentoring, and learning opportunities to recruit and retain minority and underrepresented students in health and cancer research careers
  4. Supported the career development and advancement of minority and underrepresented faculty and scientists

ChicagoCHEC is fueled by community voices, composed of 25+ key community stakeholders in government, political, business, health care, cancer advocacy, education, media, and philanthropy—and represents Chicago’s rich diversity with respect to community areas, races/ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and disabilities.

ChicagoCHEC Community Engagement

The ChicagoCHEC Community Engagement Core leads community engagement, cancer education, and outreach activities to foster meaningful interactions between cancer centers, academic institutions, and the communities they serve. In concert with the National Cancer Institute’s National Outreach Network, we expect our Community Engagement Core activities will yield valuable data on factors associated with poorer cancer outcomes experienced by some communities, as well as factors associated with improved cancer outcomes experienced by other communities. Identifying the driving forces behind cancer inequities provides a unique and powerful opportunity for ChicagoCHEC to translate research findings into direct action.

In 2019, ChicagoCHEC participated in over 30 local community events. In addition, ChicagoCHEC conducted the 4th Annual ChicagoCHEC Community Forum: Navigating the Cancer Journey: With Resources for Early Detection to Survivorship with 250 attendees. In 2020, the ChicagoCHEC team was awarded 5 additional years of funding from the National Cancer Institute. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ChicagoCHEC went virtual. ChicagoCHEC conducted 13 virtual events including virtual community conversations with our community partners. The 5th Annual ChicagoCHEC Community Forum Addressing Cancer Together during COVID-19 was successfully conducted virtually with 100 attendees.

ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows Program

In addition to advancing cancer health equity research, ChicagoCHEC offers the Research Fellows Program, which is one of CHET’s signature workforce development programs. Fellows are recruited from Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Northeastern University, and City Colleges of Chicago, with 15 to 17 Fellows per annual cohort to date.

Majority of our ChicagoCHEC Fellows are underrepresented minorities or first-generation college students. After completion of the program, Fellows are encouraged to enroll in the LEaP program, which offers an immersion experience in cancer research in a laboratory setting. Since the launch of the LEaP program in 2019, we have had 14 ChicagoCHEC fellows participate in the program.

Diversifying the Workforce

Along with our ChicagoCHEC Fellows Program, we are working to diversify the healthcare workforce in novel ways through our T37 program, Career911 online course, and our Health Equity Scholars Program.

T37 Northwestern University Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training Program (NU-MHRT)

The T37 Northwestern University Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training Program (NU-MHRT) provides health disparities research training experiences to minority and other underrepresented students and trainees at the undergraduate through postdoctoral levels in order to prepare and enhance the next generation of health sciences researchers committed to improving minority health and reducing health disparities. This program is open to people from across the United States, not just to those affiliated with Northwestern University. Trainees can focus their research and skill development in any aspect of interest that advances health equity, including but not limited to basic, translational, clinical, and population science. Research theme areas can include women’s health, cancer, health care quality and patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR), chronic diseases, global health, mental health, etc. This five-year program is supported by NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and allows CHET to recruit between 8 to 10 T37 trainees per year.

Carmenisha Ward, MD Candidate, (NU-MHRT) Trainee 2020

"I appreciated the opportunity to dive into the developmental phase research, which is the phase that happens before the implementation or “experimental” phase. It’s a rare opportunity to have someone take you step-by-step through the research development and implementation process in “real time” as the project is actually being executed. I also appreciated working in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Because the T37 research program is a comprehensive research experience, I now have the scope of knowledge necessary to begin independent research studies during my medical education and throughout my medical career."

“Career911: Your Future Job in Medicine” – A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

“Career 911” is a free massive open online course (MOOC) focusing on health sciences and health care careers and workforce development. Since launching in April 2015, more than 20,000 students from 160 countries have enrolled. Skills covered in the course include: articulating a personal story, resume and cover letter writing, job search, interviewing, professional networking, and professional communications. Topics are packaged into video-based modules that are designed to allow students to learn at their own pace. Career 911 was supported with funds from the Office of the Provost, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the National Cancer Institute [1]. For more information, visit coursera.org/learn/healthcarejobs.

Health Equity Scholars

The Health Equity Scholars Program is a volunteer opportunity that provides individuals at all levels with a substantive experience to learn more about health inequities and how to apply creative problem-solving to complex social issues using intersectional approaches, as well as develop professional skills that enhance their career development. Health Equity Fellows are paired with a CHET staff supervisor based on their area of interest and support our existing research projects or help our team develop new projects. Students and applicants from underrepresented backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply, and this opportunity is available to both people who do or do not have an affiliation with Northwestern. If applicable, current students can request to have this experience qualify as their practicum experience for academic credit.

Gaby Wagener-Sobrero, MPH, Health Equity Scholar 2019-2020 & Community Engagement Officer for the Office of the Mayor

"Participating in the Health Equity Scholars program allowed me to explore my interest in the intersection of public policy, public health, and community. I greatly enjoyed being able to attend CHETchat events, sit in meetings with policymakers, and participate in discussions on health equity. Most importantly, I found a home at CHET through the Health Equity Scholars program. I made strong relationships with the staff and met other scholars who share a similar passion for examining root causes of health inequities and improving health outcomes for historically marginalized populations. Without any doubt, these connections and the ability to explore my health equity curiosities helped me develop my long-term career goals and strengthened my commitment to lift health for all."

Areas of interest on which Health Equity Scholars can choose to focus include the following:

  • Research
  • Policy
  • Community Engagement
  • Education Programs
  • Social Media and Digital Engagement
  • Graphic Design and Web Support

Additional Health Equity Projects and Engagements

Racial Disparities in Maternal Health Outcomes

The OPTIMIZE Study: Optimizing Patient Navigation for Perinatal Care

Black pregnant persons experience profound health disparities in the United States, with Black moms dying from pregnancy-related causes at the highest rate of any other group [2]. Most of these deaths are preventable. Given this public health crisis, there is an urgent need to improve perinatal care, which is the care before and after pregnancy, for Black pregnant persons.

Funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the OPTIMIZE research study will test an integrated and comprehensive perinatal care checklist with patient navigation support that aims to address these disparities. The study will work toward increasing pregnant persons’ ability to attend their pre and postnatal visits, receive comprehensive care during and in between visits, and by connecting them to resources to address social determinant of health needs. Our Center is partnering with ACCESS Community Health Network and AllianceChicago to plan and conduct this study in community health centers in Chicago, Illinois.

4R Care Coordination for Patients with Cancer

Primary care in community health clinics is crucial for making care accessible for all individuals. However, patients facing a cancer diagnosis must seek care outside of this more familiar setting. Oftentimes when patients receive a new diagnosis of cancer, their primary care needs are markedly disrupted. Building on our Center’s extensive experience in community-engaged intervention research with providers and health systems addressing needs of medically underserved communities, and in partnership with AllianceChicago, we have implemented a “4R” (Right Information, Right Care, Right Patient, Right Time) cancer care coordination project that responds directly to our local community health center partners’ needs and uses a care plan approach to help primary care providers and care coordinators ensure that their cancer patients receive the highest quality cancer care [3].

ECOG ACRIN Research Group's Health Equity Committee

Dr.Simon is the current chair of the ECOG ACRIN Research Group’s Health Equity Committee. The ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, a collaboration between the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) and the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) is a multidisciplinary, membership-based scientific organization that is dedicated to achieving research advances in all aspects of cancer care to reduce the burden of cancer and improve the quality of life and survival in patients with cancer. The Health Equity Committee of the ECOG ACRIN Research Group specifically ensures that racial justice and health equity are embedded within cancer clinical trials. These considerations include a broad definition of underserved populations, including adolescents and young adults, the elderly, racial/ethnic/gender minorities, and rural residents, allowing the committee to ensure that research efforts include a full representation and accrual of underserved groups.

Further contributing to advancements in health equity is ECOG ACRIN’s role as a National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) Research Base. NCORP is a national network that designs and conducts clinical trials and care delivery studies with a commitment to embedding a health equity lens to all the studies across the network. As one of the Research Bases, ECOG ACRIN is one of seven nationwide hubs for the provision of clinical trial administration, data management, scientific leadership, statistical expertise, operations, and regulatory compliance.

Connecting Knowledge to Policy

CHET recognizes that transformative change that can promote health equity will require changes to policies and systems that have historically oppressed people from marginalized populations. We embrace the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) concept of Health in All Policies [4] which recognizes that ALL policies have implications on health outcomes.

CHET develops connections between researchers, communities, and policymakers that are currently operating in silos. To do this, we provide researchers and community members with opportunities to learn more about the advocacy and policymaking process, and educate policymakers on the academic and community resources available that can inform the policies they develop. Furthermore, we create spaces for all to interact so that opportunities to collaborate become more accessible.

Supporting Current Legislative Efforts to Advance Health Equity

Dr. Melissa Simon is working with lawmakers, including Senator Dick Durbin and US Representatives Bill Foster and Lauren Underwood, to push for more stability of federal funding for scientific and biomedical research through sponsoring the bicameral American Cures Act and the American Innovation Act, which are meant to provide annual budget increases to federal agencies responsible for a significant part of America’s research funding.

Senator Durbin visiting with CHET and ChicagoCHEC Fellows [5]

Additionally, Dr. Melissa Simon and CHET are supporting the bipartisan MOMMA’s Act, which extends coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to one year postpartum and provides additional support to States to address the maternal and infant mortality crisis. CHET is also supporting ongoing efforts to reform sex education laws in Illinois to ensure that sex education is LGBTQ+ inclusive and contains content aimed at preventing sexual abuse and violence.

Federal Engagement
  • United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF): Dr. Melissa Simon serves as a member of the USPSTF, which works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.
  • National Academy of Medicine (NAM): Dr. Simon serves as a member of the NAM Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity, which “brings together key stakeholders to share ideas, exchange knowledge and insights, and create collaborative networks” by exposing health inequities, amplifying cross-sector work, and empowering partners, stakeholders, and new leaders.
  • Essential Workers’ Rights During COVID-19: CHET Research Project Coordinator Edgardo Ramirez participated in national advocacy efforts to protect essential workers during COVID-19 [8].
State Engagement

Illinois Unidos: Illinois Unidos is a portal for the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative - a consortium of over 70 Latino elected and appointed officials, together with health professionals, and representatives of community-based organizations. The initiative aims to present one united voice in stopping the growth of COVID-19 in our communities while addressing related public health issues and the devastating economic impact of COVID-19. Dr. Simon and Dr. Aida Giachello are founding members of Illinois Unidos. Together, they have been pushing the statewide initiative for Latinx residents for over six months. 

CHET maintains ongoing communication with Senator Duckworth and Senator Durbin’s offices on maternal health disparities and other health equity policies.

View our additional policy engagements in the Appendix.

Patient Navigation

Chinatown Patient Navigation Program 2.0

The Chinatown Patient Navigation (PN) Program is a National Cancer Institute funded research study that focuses on increasing cancer screening and enhancing cancer care for the residents of Chicago’s Greater Chinatown area. The program first launched in 2013 and navigated almost 800 women for their breast and cervical cancer screenings. With this success and lessons learned, the PN Program was granted a renewal in 2020 to expand navigation to all cancer types for both men and women experienced by residents in the Greater Chinatown area. The PN 2.0 Program will implement strategies and tools to support coordination and integration of Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) related efforts across community oncology and community social service settings. The PN program will continue to tailor a culturally appropriate program for the underserved, linguistically isolated immigrant community with low cancer screening rates. The program aims to work toward organizational change, reducing time to diagnostic resolution, and reducing time to treatment initiation.

Healthy Aging Research

The Intersection of Cancer and Culture: Financial Burden among Chinese and South Asian Elders with Malignancy in Chicago

Financial concerns for cancer patients and families increase with escalating costs associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment. Costs for cancer patients can cut into their ability pay for basic needs such as food, housing, and clothing - potentially leading to spending savings, or even to bankruptcy. Little is known about financial burden of Asian elders with cancer. Asian cancer survivors report poor healthcare communication, quality, and self-efficacy when compared to white patients. CHET is working closely with investigators from the Asian Resource Center for Minority Aging Research on The Intersection of Cancer and Culture: Financial Burden among Chinese and South Asian Elders with Malignancy in Chicago, a pilot project that aims to assess financial burden due to cancer costs and to understand the perception and management of financial burden from cancer care based on traditional cultural values such as filial piety and family duty.

Food Pantry Initiative

CHET is working with Northwestern Medicine and Lurie’s Children Hospital to start mini food pantries in clinics and hospitals across the hospital network by following the Food 1st model. Many staffs, patients, families, and students experience food insecurity, but do not have time or transportation to go to on-location food pantries. Some people are ashamed or uncomfortable disclosing their address and income when they go to regular food pantries. So we are looking to set up 24/7 self-serving food shelves to provide non-perishable goods that people can pick up on-the-go. There will be a simple log book to collect zip codes and other de-identified information to help us understand our patrons’ needs. We hope to help alleviate some short-term food insecurity burden, especially during hospital stays.

Decreasing Barriers in HealthCare and Enhancing Participation and Diversity in Clinical Trials

Precision Medicine Initiative (All of Us Research Program)

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the All of Us Research Program aims to enroll one million or more people from across the U.S. to help speed up medical research. People who join will share information about their health, habits, and what it’s like where they live. By looking for patterns, researchers will learn more about what affects people’s health. The All of Us Research Program will be one of the most diverse health databases in history. Researchers will use the data to learn how our biology, lifestyle, and environment affect health. This could help them develop better treatments and ways to prevent different diseases. The program began national enrollment in 2018 and is expected to last at least 10 years. Recently, the program has begun analyzing DNA results to prepare to return results to participants. They’ve also contributed to COVID-19 research by creating the COVID-19 Participant Experience (COPE) Survey and testing blood samples for antibodies to help fight the next pandemic.

Dr. Simon serves as the Patient and Community Engagement Leader, helping to ensure diversity in recruitment strategies and target participants.

Numbers infographic from latest Sept. 2020 newsletter
Health for All: Library Partnerships to Advance Diversity in Clinical Trials [6]

Funding from the National Library of Medicine helped develop the Health for All platform (healthforallproject.org), a web-based tool developed through a design thinking approach to be used in public libraries and hospital patient education centers. The goal of the Health for All tool is to help the general public learn more about clinical trials and to specifically increase clinical trials awareness and knowledge among populations underrepresented in clinical trials. Due to their accessibility and roles as information gatekeepers, librarians and health providers that serve populations that are underrepresented in clinical trials are promising partners for disseminating clinical trials information.

To date, the Health for All team has conducted seven events at Chicago Public Libraries in underserved neighborhoods on the West and South Sides, including Hegewisch, Greater Grand Crossing, and Brighton Park. The Health for All platform will be used for the next phase of the research project to increase access to preventive services for underserved populations, which is described in the next section.

Health for All: Advancing Library-Academic Medical Center Partnerships to Navigate Wellness and Scale Preventive Services Access [7]

Recently, CHET was awarded a three-year grant from the National Library of Medicine that will expand on the Health for All project to include information on preventive services to reach underserved populations across Chicago. The Navigating Wellness tool aims to empower library patrons with accessible health information that they can use to seek out preventive health services, while also empowering librarians to support their patron’s search for health information. This tool improves communication and facilitates understanding across patients and healthcare providers, fostering the trust and understanding required to encourage underserved patients to avail themselves of appropriate preventive services.

CHET has received a one year Administrative Supplement from the Office of the Director of the NIH to add a maternal health focus to the Navigating Wellness tool, as part of NIH's Implementing a Maternal health and PRegnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative. The supplement will create a Navigating Wellness: “Well Mama” Module with a focus on 5 priority topic areas: (a) mental health/depression; (b) cardiovascular symptoms; (c) safety (e.g., guns at home and intimate partner violence); (d) opioid/substance abuse; and (e) social support, self-agency, and well-being.

CHET Event Highlights

On January 21, 2020, the Center brought experts together to discuss “Housing and Health Equity” in a panel format. This event included an overview of local housing initiatives such as Bring Chicago Home, Better Health through Housing, and the Cook County Flexible Housing Pool.The group specifically focused on the issues related to homelessness in the City of Chicago and featured local leaders such as Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez of the 25th Ward, Sam Carlson from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Betsy Benito from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Carlos DeJesus Rivera from the Center for Housing and Health, and Melissa Simon, MD, MPH from CHET.

On March 3, 2020, the Center hosted an engaging talk titled “Understanding the Historical Contexts Behind Health Disparities”. Joining our founder and director, Dr. Melissa Simon, in discussion were Dr. Linda Rae Murray and Jose Lopez from the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. A focus of the discussion was the whitewashing of history and how this connects to our understanding of the worsening health inequities and disparities in our communities.

On June 19, 2020, the Center proudly hosted a “Juneteenth Virtual Cookout" Celebration with students, academic, and community colleagues. This event encouraged supporting Black-owned restaurants in the City of Chicago. We celebrated this holiday with an introduction to Juneteenth, featured music, choreography, poetry, short film, artwork, and action items on anti-racism.

CHET By The Numbers

These numbers reflect outcomes as of October, 2020.



[1] Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity grants P20 CA165592, U54CA202995, U54CA202997, and U54CA203000

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-ethnic-disparities-pregnancy-deaths.html

[3] To learn more about 4R and see our other 4R-related projects such as the "4R for Guideline-Indicated BRCA (BReast CAncer) Genetic Assessment of Breast Center Patients", please visit our Simon Laboratory .

[4] APHA. “Health in All Policies.” https://www.apha.org/topics-and-issues/health-in-all-policies.

[5] Adela Mizrachi (2019). “Training the Next Generation of Health Disparity Researchers.” Northwestern Medicine Feinberg School of Medicine. https://news.feinberg.northwestern.edu/2019/08/training-the-next-generation-of-health-disparity-researchers/.

[6] NIH NLM 5G08LM012688-03

[7] NIH NLM 1G08LM013188-01

[8] https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-coronavirus-latinos-reopening-concerns-20200605-rd3xsjjugrfpphwort6wcbmq7i-story.html

[9] https://multimedia.illinois.gov/dph/DPH-YesUCan-Mask-Design-Competition.html

[10] https://dph.illinois.gov/yesucan

[11] https://multimedia.illinois.gov/dph/DPH-YesUCan-YouthForum-092620.html

Active Research Grants and Contracts

NIH U54CA203000; CA2022995; CA2022997 | 9/1/2015-9/30/2025

The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) - This collaborative will accomplish the following objectives: 1) cross-fertilize research among NEIU and UIC faculty and students with RHLCCC-NU across the cancer continuum, from prevention to survivorship; 2) enhance RHLCCC-NU, UIC and NEIU collaborative research efforts and networking opportunities through cross-sponsored conferences, symposia, and research education opportunities; 3) advance team-based research projects that will generate a steady pipeline of students, fellows and faculty that continue in advanced studies; 4) embed innovative experience-learning curricular modifications to expose students to cancer disparities research; and 5) develop scientists who will produce more competitive grant applications and succeed in securing funding. To support our achievement of these objectives in this U54, we have 4 Cores, a ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows Program and we seed research projects annually.

ChicagoCHEC's Role: Multiple Principal Investigator

P20 NIH NCI P20CA233304 | 9/15/2020-8/30/2023

The Northwestern University Cancer Health Equity Research SPORE (NU-CHERS) - Centered in Chicago, one of the most diverse cities in the United States, this P20 feasibility and planning proposal to develop the Northwestern University Cancer Health Equity Research SPORE (NU-CHERS) will generate scientific findings and establish sustainable, collaborative, academic and community infrastructure that will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive translational cancer research program focused on cancer health disparities. In this proposal, we set our initial translational research focus to gynecologic cancers, including disparities in endometrial and cervical cancer incidence, early detection, and mortality as experienced by African American women.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NIH NIMHD R01MD014068 | 08/01/2019-07/31/2024

The Optimize Study: Optimizing Patient Navigation for Perinatal Care - Persistent racial/ethnic disparities in perinatal outcomes are urgent public health concerns, especially for African American women in the U.S. We propose a Hybrid Type 2 randomized cluster trial of 20 community health centers to study the effectiveness of patient navigation and its implementation among African American pregnant and postpartum women.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NIH NCI R01CA163830 | 3/15/2012-2/28/2024

Adapting patient navigation to promote cancer screening in Chicago’s Chinatown - The objectives of this study are to use, disseminate and implement the well-tested patient navigation model to the full continuum of breast and cervical cancer screening through survivorship among Chinese women in Chicago’s Chinatown community.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NIH NIMHD T37MD01428 | 07/18/2019-02/29/2024

Northwestern University Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training - The NU-MHRT builds on the collective strength, expertise, and experience of investigators and faculty and proposes innovative training approaches, including, assembling a transdisciplinary team of NIH-funded program faculty; building a cohort of trainees across career stages from undergraduate through postdoctoral; strengthening the pipeline of disparity trainees by reaching out to community college students and planting the seeds of careers in health sciences research; and partnering with minority serving institutions to enhance research training opportunities for their students and strengthen research mentorship skills among their faculty.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NIH NLM G08LM013188 | 09/19/2019-5/31/2022

Advancing Library-Academic Medical Center Partnerships to Navigate Wellness and Scale Preventive Services Access - Under-utilization of preventive health services is a contributing factor to health disparities. This library-academic health center partnership aims to develop a digital tool for librarians and library patrons to navigate wellness and help augment the USPSTF information to enhance the accessibility of up-to-date and tailored, preventive screening and wellness information to underserved populations.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NIH NLM G08LM013188-02S1 | 09/01/2020-05/31/2021

Supplement to create a “Navigating Wellness Maternal Health Module” - addressing a) maternal health and depression; b) cardiovascular symptoms; c) safety (guns and IPV); d) opioid/substance use and e) social support/agency.

NIH NIA P30AG059304 | 09/01/2018-08/31/2023

Chicago Asian Resource Center for Minority Aging Research - The goal of the Research and Education Core is to increase the number of successful interdisciplinary researchers from underrepresented populations prepared to conduct translational trauma and resilience research focusing on Asian American older adults. The Center in conjunction with the Core will provide an enriched environment that develops Scholars who: 1) understand the biological, social- cultural, psychological, and behavioral sciences with a specific emphasis on knowledge about mechanisms of action underlying trauma and related outcomes at the individual or population level, focusing on Asian elders; and 2) can conduct innovative pilot research that forms the basis for future minority aging research, ultimately designed to improve the lives of older persons and the capacity of institutions to adapt to the needs of our graying society.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator of Research Education and Training Core

NIH U54CA221205 | 8/1/2017-7/31/2022

Epigenomic Biomarkers of HIV-Associated Cancers in Nigeria: Epigenomic Biomarkers of HIV-Associated Cervical Cancer - Dr. Simon leads 1 of the two R01 – equivalent projects focused on the epigenomics of cervical cancer amongst HIV positive women in Nigeria (Nigeria’s University of Lagos and Jos Medical Centers). Nigerian women face one of the worst prognosis in the world when diagnosed with cervical cancer, and this prognosis worsens with HIV infection. This work aims to elucidate the epigenetic biomarkers in HIV associated cervical cancer. Identification of epigenetic markers predicting progression will also provide opportunities for developing future therapeutic targets for the management of cervical dysplasia and cancer.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator of the R01: Epigenomics of Cervical Cancer in HIV infected women

NIH NLM G08LM012688-01 | 7/1/2017-6/30/2020

Enhancing clinical trials participation though library partnerships - The participation of diverse populations in clinical trials is crucial to advancing science, discoveries, health care delivery and overall human health. There are many studies focused on barriers to diverse clinical trials enrollment, however there is little focus on the conversations that need to occur prior to approaching a potential participant in clinical trials- including a focus on: building trust, dispelling research participation myths, improving research literacy. This proposal aims to build on our low-tech version of our research literacy communication tool tested in diverse populations and transform it to a web-based version to disseminate to diverse populations to use in conjunction with their local librarians, community organizations/community health workers, and health care providers.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NIH NIDDK U01DK126045 | 7/1/2020-6/30/2025

Northwestern University PLUS Clinical Trial Site - This site is a part of the PLUS Clinical Trial aiming to improve preventive health approaches to bladder and overall lower urinary tract health.

Role: Multiple Principal Investigator (with Kenton and Griffith)

NIH NICHD HD050121 Bulun (PI) | 7/1/2006-6/30/2025

Women’s Reproductive Health Research (WRHR-K12) Career Development Award Program - The major goals of the WRHR program are to develop the careers of physician scientists in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

CHET Director's Role: Program Director

NIH P50HD098580 Bulun (PI) | 4/1/2019-3/31/2024

NCTRI Northwestern Leiomyoma Research Center - The major goals of the Leiomyoma Research Center is to understand novel clinically relevant mechanisms responsible for pathogenesis and growth of uterine leiomyomas especially in African American women to reduce associated morbidity in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

CHET Director's Role: Research Education and Outreach Core Director

Merck Foundation | 1/1/2017-12/30/2022

Leveraging the Learning Health System to Improve Abnormal Cancer Screen Follow-Up in Community Health Center - This grant proposes a multilevel intervention to improve abnormal cancer screening diagnostic resolution for low-income patients at community health centers.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NCI NCORP 1UG1CA189828-01 (Schnell and Wagner mPI) | 8/1/2014-7/31/2019


CHET Director's Role: Health Equity Core/Committee Chair and Co-Investigator

NCI P30CA060553 (Platanias PI) | 09/16/13 - 07/31/ 23

The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center - The goals of this Cancer Center Support Grant are to conduct and support cancer research and to integrate cancer-related research throughout the university; to coordinate and integrate cancer-related activities of the University including community outreach initiatives; to develop and conduct cancer education programs; to promote and participate in state-of-the-are care of cancer patients at the affiliated hospitals of the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University and; to develop and implement the initiatives in cancer prevention and control research. These goals are accomplished through the activities of the 9 established programs and 15 shared resources.

CHET Director's Role: Co-Program Leader, Cancer Control and Survivorship and Co-Director of Community Outreach and Catchment

NCI P30CA060552- Supplement 9/1/2020 – 8/31/2021

Leveraging Citizen Scientists to Infuse Community Perspectives within Bench and Translational Science at Lurie Cancer Center

1UG3OD023189 (Greenland PI) | 07/01/16-06/30/21

Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium (IPMC) - The Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium is comprised of Northwestern, University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago. Precision medicine seeks to capitalize on growing capabilities in the areas of genomics, clinical phenotyping, clinical informatics, EHR availability and interoperability, and mobile health technologies to improve understanding of human health and disease. Improved understanding of the complex interplay of genetic and environmental exposures, beyond those previously available in long-term observational epidemiological research, holds the promise of better prediction, prevention, and treatment of a host of human diseases including coronary heart disease, stroke, numerous cancers, dementing illnesses, arthritis, and other major causes of disability and early death. Our target participants and recruitment settings are carefully chosen to maximize efficiency and ensure diversity for equitable impact of precision medicine research.

CHET Director's Role: Co-Investigator; Patient and Community Engagement Leader

NCI HHSN2612012000351 (Khan PI) | 9/24/2018-9/23/2023

Cancer Prevention Agent Development Program: Early Phase Clinical Research - The goal of this program is to conduct early phase clinical trials (phases 0,1,2) focused on cancer chemoprevention. My role is to lead the recruitment and retention core and to strive to improve minority and underrepresentation accrual and retention.

Role: Co-Investigator

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)/Pfizer | 1/18/2017-12/30/2019

Innovating patient-facing care pathways in breast cancer using the 4R model, 4R = Right Information / Care / Patient / Time - This application extends the body of supportive care and treatment plans research to implement such plans for women with metastatic breast cancer in a large integrated health system.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

Pritzker Foundation | 9/1/2016-8/31/2022

Improving Low Income Women’s Health Care at Community Health Centers - With our well-established community engaged research partnership, we will implement an intervention 4R Care Delivery Model (4R = Right information and Right Treatment to the Right Patient at the Right Time), which was developed to identify and address gaps in community nested comprehensive cancer care in 3 large community health centers with a strong footprint in low income, minority communities across Chicago.

CHET Director's Role: Principal Investigator

NIH D43TW009575 (Murphy) | 05/9/2014-03/31/2020

Northwestern and Jos University Research Training Program in HIV and Malignancies - AIDS malignancies are a serious problem in sub-Saharan Africa because of the widespread HIV epidemic and a high burden of oncogenic viral co-infections. This grant builds on existing in-country training capacity provided by the United States President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Northwestern University AIDS International Training and Research Program (Northwestern-AITRP), and Medical Education Partnership Initiative Nigeria (MEPIN) to achieve our objectives in this important health priority area. The aims of this proposal are: 1) advance training of HIV clinician-investigators capable of performing translational research on the pathogenesis, epidemiology, and prevention of AIDS-defining malignancies; 2) initiate training of oncology clinician-investigators capable of performing clinical trial research on novel interventions for the treatment and prevention of AIDS-defining malignancies; 3) develop training of pathology and virology scientists to perform research on oncogenic mechanisms and pathogenesis; 4) create a multidisciplinary research team capable of performing advanced in-country research on AIDS-defining malignancies in Jos, Nigeria.

CHET Director's Role: Co-Investigator and Mentor

ED/ NIDRR CL3802/H133B140012 (Roth) | 10/01/14 – 09/30/20

Developing Optimal Strategies in Exercise and Survival Skills to increase Health and Function - The goals are to develop and test innovative strategies to enable people with disabilities to achieve and maintain their optimal health and function; assess the optimal dosing, cost-effectiveness, and value of selected approaches to achieve and maintain their health and function; and disseminate information regarding these strategies to various stakeholders.

CHET Director's Role: Co-Investigator

NICHD K12 WRHR Award (Barber Scholar) | 9/2017-9/2020

Improving Gynecologic Oncologic Perioperative Care

CHET Director's Role: Mentor

NIH/NHLBI HHSN268200625236C Daviglus (PI) | 06/01/13 – 05/31/2020

Hispanic Community Health Study – Study of Latinos (HCHS-SOL) Field Centers - Through the subcontract commitment with the UIC, Northwestern University team of investigators will provide expertise in areas of cardiovascular diseases and related conditions, including cardiovascular epidemiology, ECG evaluation, cardiovascular risk factors; gestational diabetes, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), psychosocial and cultural issues. Assist in overseeing programmatic aspects of the project including participant assessment, data collection and analyses, data interpretation and dissemination. Participate in manuscripts development as leading authors or co-authors and provided leadership in the areas of marketing and health communications and community outreach, including chairing the Steering committee (SC)’s Community Relations Committee (CRC), for successful recruitment of SOL participants to the 2nd examination visit and for on-going retention and follow up

CHET Director's Role: Collaborator

CHET prioritizes translating our research and expertise in health equity to public policies to create a more just society that respects the dignity of all people. Below are some additional policy engagement efforts:

State Engagement
  • Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) COVID-19 Equity Team: Dr. Simon and CHET Strategic Operations Director Samantha Alonis are members of this statewide effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in communities of color and among vulnerable populations [9, 10]. Their goal is to better address the social determinants of health that contribute to the disproportionate cases and fatalities from Coronavirus. Dr. Simon and Samantha also helped develop the IDPH Youth Forum which launched in September, 2020 [11].
  • Dr. Simon is a member of the Equity Team’s Abuse Prevention Communications Workgroup, and Samantha serves as the Workgroup's co-chair. Both the Equity Team’s Abuse Prevention Communications Task Force and Workgroup aim to identify and disseminate resources and equity-focused solutions to help prevent and respond to intimate partner violence, sexual violence, elder abuse, and child abuse and neglect, with special consideration to how COVID-19 and relevant precautions may deepen inequities.
  • Inclusive Sex Education in Illinois: The Center is supporting ongoing efforts to reform sex education laws in Illinois to ensure that sex education is more accessible, LGBTQ+ inclusive, and contains content aimed at preventing sexual abuse and violence.
Local Engagement
  • Office of the Mayor’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Force: Dr. Simon is a member of the City of Chicago’s Office of the Mayor’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Force.
  • City of Chicago’s Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD) Workgroup: CHET is involved with the City of Chicago’s Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD) Workgroup and has offered policy recommendations on how to improve TOD development to create greater equity across our neighborhoods.
  • Housing and Health Equity Panel: CHET organized this panel in January 2020 to increase awareness of local advocacy efforts aimed at addressing homelessness and housing insecurity, including the Cook County Flexible Housing Pool (FHP) and Bring Chicago Home. This panel featured 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez; Betsy Benito, Director of the Illinois Program at Corporation for Supportive Housing; Sam Carlson, Research and Outreach Manager at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; and Carlos DeJesus Rivera, Director of Housing Special Initiatives at Center for Housing and Health.

Other Notable CHET Events

June 24, 2019 - CHETchat: Hidden Figures Book Discussion Summer Series Session

July 8, 2019 - CHETchat: Hidden Figures Book Discussion Summer Series Session

July 9, 2019 - Health Equity by Design: Critical and Creative Considerations when Challenging Health Disparities featuring Maria Young

August 2, 2019 - Health Equity by Design: Tailoring your Biosketch for Health Equity Proposals featuring Q. Eileen Walfford, MSt, MLIS

August 12, 2019 - CHETchat: Hidden Figures Book Discussion Summer Series Session

August 21, 2019 - Health Equity by Design: What Journals Look for in Health Equity Centered Publications featuring Philip Greenland, MD

November 11, 2019 - CHETchat: Education and Workforce Inclusion featuring Dr. Clyde Yancy

December 16, 2019 - CHETchat: Taking Risks to Achieve Equity featuring Dr. Raj Shah and Dr. Fernando

January 7, 2020 - CHETchat Spotlight Series: Understanding Health Inequities through the Sciences featuring Thomas McDade, PhD

January 21, 2020 - Housing and Health Equity Panel featuring Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez, Sam Carlson, Betsy Benito, Carlos DeJesus Rivera, and Melissa Simon, MD, MPH

February 11, 2020 - CHETchat: The Ripple that Became a Tidal Wave: HIV/AIDS Activism and the Lessons of Transformative Leadership featuring Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes

March 3, 2020 - Understanding the Historical Contexts Behind Health Disparities featuring Dr. Linda Rae Murray and Jose Lopez from PRCC

April 20, 2020 - [Virtual] Mental Health in the Black Community featuring Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler

April 28, 2020 - [Virtual] Supporting COVID-19 Caretakers featuring Candace Henley

May 12, 2020 - [Virtual] The Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence, Pregnancy, and Mental Health During COVID-19

May 19, 2020 - [Virtual] Who’s Next? Using Network Science to Understand (and Do Something About) America’s Gun Violence Epidemic featuring Dr. Andrew Papachristos

June 19, 2020 - [Virtual] Juneteenth Virtual Cookout. To view please use this password #Juneteenth2020

June 23, 2020 - [Virtual] SPOT Policy Science Symposium Breakout Session - Food Access and Inequity: Developing Socially-Inclusive Food Policy featuring Priya Uppuluri and Joe Bozeman

July 22, 2020 - [Virtual] CHETchat: Addressing SDH in Chicago to Address Healthcare Disparities through Partnerships featuring Dr. Garth Walker

July 28, 2020 - [Virtual] CHET and CCH present Discussing the Physical, Emotional, and Social Needs of Older Adults During COVID-19

August 3, 2020 - [Virtual] "13TH" Documentary Discussion featuring Soledad A. McGrath

August 11, 2020 - [Virtual] CHETchat: Creating the First Comprehensive Program to Address Transplant Disparities for African Americans featuring Dr. Dinee Simpson

September 15, 2020 - [Virtual] CHETchat: Challenging Privilege and the Systemic Oppression on Mental Wellness of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) featuring Dorian Ortega, LCPC

September 24, 2020 - [Virtual] CHET’s Kitchen: Food Access and Inequities in the City of Chicago

October 1, 2020 - [Virtual] CHET’s Kitchen: Sustainable Eating with the Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC)

October 14, 2020 - [Virtual] CHETchat: Impacts of Fines and Fees in the Criminal Justice System featuring Mary Pattillo, PhD


The Center for Health Equity Transformation is grateful for funding, and operational support provided by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Institute for Public Health and Medicine, with research program funding support provided by the National Cancer Institute (U54CA202995; U54CA202997; U54CA203000; P20CA233304; R01CA163830). National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (R01MD014068; T37MD014248-02), National Library of Medicine (G08LM012688; 5G08LM013188-02; 3G08LM013188-02S1). National Institute on Aging (P30AG059304), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (1U01DK126045-01), Eunice Kennedy Shriver National institute of Child Health & Human Development (K12HD050121; 5P50HD098580-02), Merck Foundation, ECOG ACRIN, and Pritzker Foundation. Dr. Simon is a member of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the content of this report does not reflect the views of the USPSTF. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

The Center for Health Equity Transformation is a joint center between the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and the Institute for Public Health and Medicine.