Among Thelma Shorter’s first stops at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Midsouth Black Expo was the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute’s booth offering take-home colorectal screening kits.
“For colorectal cancer, and all cancers, it’s better to find out if you are at risk sooner rather than later,” said Shorter of Little Rock. “If you can catch cancer before it gets too far then you have a better chance of it being corrected.”
Shorter was among 2,100 attendees at the 19th annual expo, held Feb. 25 at The Venue at Westwind in North Little Rock. A free event with 25 speakers and 20 performances, the expo celebrated Black History Month with health education, an “Ask the Doctor” segment, a showcase of more than 100 Black-owned businesses, and Black cultural and historical education. In addition, the UAMS MammoVan, a mobile mammography unit, was on-site to provide prescheduled mammograms.
“I’ve been here before, and I always find it interesting with lots of information, plus the entertainment and a little shopping,” Shorter said. “It’s something good for the community.”
Other UAMS booths were represented by the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation, Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI), and the UAMS Translational Research Institute’s ARresearch registry of potential research volunteers.
Many attendees were happy to learn about and join the research registry, which is available at ARresearch.org.
“I lost my mom to vascular dementia, and if that research comes up I would certainly sign up and participate in that study,” said Melissa Kaiser of Little Rock.
People who join the ARresearch registry provide their contact information and select from a list of 31 health interest areas, such as heart disease, cancer and COVID-19. When studies at UAMS match a registrant’s health interests, UAMS may contact the registrant to ask if they want to volunteer.
Stephanie Wilson of Monticello joined the registry after seeing the value of research as a former employee at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
“I know what the benefits to research are, so I’d like to aid if I could, especially being an African American female,” Wilson said, noting the lack of diversity in research.
Hayse Miller of Little Rock said his health experiences motivated him to join the registry.
“I’ve always been interested in doing some type of study, especially when COVID-19 came and I got infected,” Miller said. “As someone who has polio, I’ve also been interested in some physical-related studies.”
Parents and K-12 students were also drawn to DDEI’s Pathways Academy booth, where they learned of opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The Pathways Academy is a statewide K-12 STEM-Health Science educational and community engagement program with the goal of diversifying the health care workforce. It offers licensed teachers providing hands-on, real world and interactive experiences.
Ophelia Malone of Little Rock and her daughter, Star Hughes, were excited to hear about the Pathways Academy and learn how to apply for the summer 2023 program.
“I first heard about Pathways at a PTA meeting, and I think it would be a great opportunity for Star to engage with other youth who share her interests,” Malone said, noting that as a fifth-grader, her daughter was part of a robotics team that won a Little Rock School District competition.