A Latino Lens

Listening to the Community to Fuel Outreach and Engagement 

By Dr. Kelly Meza 


Dr. Ramirez and her team at Mays Cancer Center are dedicated to tackling the unequal impact of cancer and disease on South Texas residents. With 69% of the population identifying as Latino and significant health disparities prevalent, their work is crucial in addressing the region’s unique challenges. 


Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) is paramount in South Texas, where poverty affects 25 out of 38 counties and health disparities are stark. Mays Cancer Center’s COE efforts aim to raise awareness, share resources, and foster partnerships to address local health issues. By involving community members in research and programs, they build trust and facilitate dialogue to tailor interventions effectively. 


Mays Cancer Center leads the charge in institutionalizing COE. Through initiatives like Community Advisory Boards and partnerships with over 40 nonprofits and community organizations, they ensure that community needs guide research activities. “Listening Sessions” and “Design Studios” facilitate collaboration between researchers and community members, ensuring that interventions are relevant and impactful. 


Efforts to increase diversity in clinical trials have yielded promising results. Through the Clinical Trials Minority Accrual Committee, Latino participation in clinical trials has risen from 42% to 49%. Central to this success is the My Choices initiative, which empowers patients to make informed decisions about participating in clinical trials. Data from a pilot study involving 400 Mays Cancer Center patients demonstrates the effectiveness of the intervention in addressing barriers and increasing awareness of clinical trial participation as a treatment option for cancer. 


Participants in the My Choices intervention group, which received educational materials and support from patient navigators, showed a significant increase in positive attitudes towards clinical trials. This multi-level intervention, coupled with patient navigation, addresses systemic barriers and social determinants of health, ultimately improving access to clinical trials and raising awareness about their benefits. 


Salud America, a digital platform created by Mays Cancer Center, plays a pivotal role in diversifying research programs and registries. Through bicultural, multimedia content and targeted engagement efforts, Salud America promotes diversity in clinical trials. Collaborations with initiatives like the Low Grade Lymphoma Registry (LGG) further amplify Latino voices in medical research, ensuring representation and equity. 


In conclusion, Mays Cancer Center’s comprehensive approach to community engagement and research is making strides in advancing health equity in South Texas. By listening to the community, fostering partnerships, and leveraging innovative interventions like My Choices and Salud America, they are breaking down barriers and paving the way for a more equitable future in healthcare. 


Author Bio: 

Kelly Meza is an Internal Medicine resident at Baylor College of Medicine, interested on pursuing a career on Hematology Oncology, research focuses on cancer disparities and understudied malignancies. 


No conflicts of interest 



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