A team of researchers at IU School of Medicine have received $100,000 in pilot funding to research how best to deliver cancer survivorship healthcare to adolescents and young adults (AYA) in southwest Indiana. Tammy Sajdyk, PhD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics (Indianapolis) and Kara Garcia, PhD, assistant professor of radiology and imaging sciences (Evansville) are co-principal investigators of the grant.
While survival rates for people diagnosed with cancer have improved drastically over the past four decades, survivors are at very high risk for developing chronic medical and mental health concerns, with needs that differ depending on their age. The goal of the study is to work with cancer survivors between the ages of 15 and 39 who live in rural areas to understand what kinds of barriers impact their access to healthcare and overall wellness.
"We’re grateful to see an increase in the number of adolescents and young adults who survive cancer. However, we want to make sure these individuals receive the care and support they need throughout their lives,” said Garcia, who is also the Evansville navigator for the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI). “This topic is especially important for rural and medically underserved populations, such as those in Evansville and the surrounding region, who may not have access to the resources available in larger cities.”
Brittany Ritzman Gass, a second year IU School of Medicine student at the Evansville campus, is the student co-investigator for this project. She participated in Indiana University Medical Student Program for Research and Scholarship (IMPRS) this past summer, which is how she started collaborating with Garcia and Sajdyk. This was her first experience submitting a grant for medical research.
“The heart of the summer project was hearing people’s stories in their own words,” said Ritzman Gass. “By connecting with this younger generation of cancer survivors, we are learning about the impact survivorship can have on early life, whether that’s getting through high school and college, or starting a career after having cancer.”
The research team will begin gathering preliminary data and doing a literature review before they start connecting directly with young cancer survivors in spring of 2023. About a dozen medical students from Evansville will be working on this project in the next year.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together researchers across the state through our regional campuses,” said Sajdyk, who is also the associate director of the Indiana CTSI Translational Research Development Program and Indiana CTSI navigator for the Indianapolis campus. “We know each story about recovery after a cancer diagnosis is unique, but by hearing from different survivors, we will learn better ways to support them.”
The funding is being provided by the Primary Care Reaffirmation for Indiana Medical Education (PRIME) Program, an initiative funded by U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Learn more about other IU School of Medicine research receiving this funding here.
About the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute
The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) brings together the state’s brightest minds to solve Indiana’s most pressing health challenges through research. It is a statewide partnership among Indiana University, Purdue University, the University of Notre Dame and numerous life sciences businesses, government entities, and community organizations. The Indiana CTSI engages with the public at every level of research—from basic science to patient care. It has been continuously funded by multimillion-dollar grants from the National Institutes of Health since the Indiana CTSI’s founding in 2008 and is housed at the Indiana University School of Medicine. For more information, visit indianactsi.org.