In a recent guest column in Clinical Leader I shared how the current COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying how the social determinants of health – the conditions in which people live, work and play – impact health and access to healthcare in the United States. In our nation, so much of health and well-being is tied to economics and wealth status. The fact that many of our essential workers are low paid employees who lack health insurance and/or find themselves living just at or above the poverty line due to low wage positions or those that limit hours to restrict access to more comprehensive benefits is a risk factor for the development and poorer outcomes of COVID-related illness. The majority of these workers are from communities of color – a fact being underscored by the race/ethnicity data currently being collected. This pandemic highlights the importance of ensuring equitable access to care – whether that be cancer care or COVID testing and treatment. Just as in cancer care, it is important that any COVID-related clinical trials/research be inclusive of all communities. Listed below is information about research opportunities alongside a few resources that may benefit those in need in our local community. Please feel free to share this newsletter with your neighbors, colleagues, friends and family. We stand with you in this difficult season.

COVID-19 & Cancer 
Cancer may not be in in the headlines recently due to COVID, but cancer does not take a break. Cancer treatment is not elective and treating patients does not stop due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus has changed the way we live and function as a society, people with underlying health conditions such as cancer, are among those at high risk of serious illness from COVID. It is essential for cancer survivors, caregivers, and patients to talk with their doctor(s) regarding changes to their care plans and telehealth options. Social distancing and wearing masks in public is absolutely necessary as a precaution to lower the risk of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommendations for those at increased risk for serious illness from coronavirus infection available here:
Additionally, the American Cancer Society recommended that no one go to a health care facility for routine cancer screening when the pandemic began. Those eligible for preventive cancer screening, such as a colonoscopy or mammography, may not be able to do them on schedule during this unprecedented time. Our office wholeheartedly believes that “Screening Saves Lives,” and it is important to make sure screening appointments are immediately rescheduled as your local restrictions are lifted. During this time of uncertainty and mixed messages, the American Cancer Society has created a helpful list of questions for cancer patients and survivors to ask their healthcare team about COVID-19:
Smoking & COVID-1
Smoking weakens the lungs and is the #1 preventable cause of death in the United States. COVID-19 impacts the lungs, increasing smokers’ risk of dying from the virus. Fortunately, there are statewide resources available to help individuals take steps toward quitting. For FREE support, call Quitline NC anytime or give this information to your loved ones who smoke: Call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit . For Spanish, 1-855-DEJALO-YA (1-855-335-3569). Free nicotine replacement is available to those who qualify.
COVID-19 Research
The novel coronavirus outbreak is new to the world, so doctors and researchers are feverishly developing research projects to learn more. Here are a few opportunities for contributing to the knowledge about COVID-19 to better understand the virus: 
  • Dr. John Sanders is leading the COVID-19 Community Research Partnership to collect information about our community's coronavirus exposures, symptoms, and health care visits due to the virus. They plan to enroll 500,000 to help determine the true impact in our area. You can learn more about the COVID-19 study and if you qualify here:
  • The Healthcare Worker Exposure Response & Outcomes (HERO) Registry invites healthcare workers nationwide to share clinical and life experiences they face on the COVID-19 pandemic front lines. This Registry is conducted by The Duke Clinical Research Institute & the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network. You can learn more here:
  • The CCC19 Registry was created to quickly gather details from healthcare professionals related to patients with cancer suspected or confirmed of having the novel coronavirus. Over 80 cancer centers and other organizations, including Wake Forest Baptist Health Comprehensive Cancer Center, are participating. You can learn more here:
  • The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) launched the ASCO Survey on COVID-19 in Oncology Registry to help the cancer community learn how severe the virus is among cancer patients. You can read about ASCO’s efforts here:

Meet Our Newest Team Member  
Elias Berhanu, MPH
Elias Berhanu is the Community Outreach Coordinator in the Office of Cancer Health Equity. In his role, he is committed to enhancing community engagement throughout the Cancer Center’s catchment area. Elias will help bring the community’s voice to the state policy level. Since stepping into his new role, Elias helped organize a successful “Dress in Blue Day” event at Wake Forest Baptist Health during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Elias received his Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston & his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. 

The Office of Cancer Health Equity hosted Dress in Blue Day For a Future Free of Colorectal Cancer at Wake Forest Baptist Health on 3/6/2020. The event included a full day of activities and a speech from a survivor and Gastroenterology experts to increase awareness during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month .

  • During this time, it is important to know the resources in your own backyard. Aunt Bertha is a social care network (available in over 100 languages) that allows you to search for services and resources in your zip code. You can access this resource here:
  • If you or someone you know lost your job or health insurance due to COVID-19, The North Carolina Navigator Consortium and Legal Aid of North Carolina are ready to help with ACA Marketplace enrollment. For more information, call 1-855-733-3711 or visit or in Spanish
  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina has a resource on their website that can connect you with one of 470 available programs that provide groceries or meals based on your zip code. You can access it here:

Upcoming Events
The Colon Cancer Coalition is hosting its local Get Your Rear In Gear (GYRIG) event virtually this year due to COVID-19, On Saturday, May 30, 2020 you can share how you are staying active by using the hashtag #GYRIGMyWay. You can learn more and register for the event here:
Please visit and follow us on social media for more updated resources moving forward:

The Office of Cancer Health Equity Team

Director: Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD
Assistant Director: Kathryn Weaver, PhD, MPH
Program Manager: Carla Strom, MLA
Hispanic Patient Navigator: Maria Alejandra Combs, JD, OPN-CG
Rural Patient Navigator: Emily Britt, MSW
African American Navigator: Alexis Daniels, MS
Community Health Educator: Aeriel Diaz, BA, CHES
Community Research Coordinator: Kelsey Shore, CCRC
Community Outreach Coordinator: Elias Berhanu, MPH
P: 336-713-3665