NEWS | June 1, 2018

Cancer center improves cancer screening and care in underserved Sacramento communities

Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation grant enables collaboration


A unique collaboration spearheaded by UC Davis cancer specialists was launched June 1 to enhance cancer prevention, screening, detection and specialty oncology care for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Sacramento.

Moon Chen, Jr. Moon Chen, Jr.

The UC Davis Division of Hematology and Oncology and Comprehensive Cancer will partner with Health And Life Organization (HALO) to identify Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders ages 11-75 at risk for cancers, particularly those associated with infections, and get them the expert care they need.

The announcement was made a special event held at one of the HALO clinics in Sacramento. U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui was among the speakers.

“One of the most important ways we can address these troubling health inequities is through early intervention and prevention,” she said. “I commend UC Davis Health and HALO for their work to increase community engagement around cancer screenings, which will ultimately help improve health outcomes.”

The collaborative is funded with a $750,000 grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation with an additional $274,000 from the UC Davis Office of Research, $48,500 from the Cancer Center and recruitment support from the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center. Leading the effort are Moon Chen, Jr. professor in the UC Davis Division of Hematology and Oncology and associate director for cancer control and cancer health disparities at the Cancer Center, and J. Miguel Suarez, clinical director of HALO, a non-profit healthcare corporation that runs six community health centers in Sacramento. Kit Tam, a UC Davis medical oncologist, will serve as medical director.

“We feel extremely privileged to be selected by BMSF to focus on increasing the quality and quantity of oncology care in the primary care setting for the underserved Asian population,” said Chen. “Together through HALO we will have an impact on the lives of an estimated 10,000 Asian Americans that they serve in our community.”

Cancer is the leading cause of death Asian Americans, and this population is disproportionately affected by cancers caused by viral infections including liver (hepatitis B virus) and cervical cancers (human papilloma virus), both of which can be prevented with vaccines. Research, including dozens of studies by UC Davis investigators, has shown that community outreach and intervention can reduce these disparities.

The collaborative will focus on six screenings or interventions that reduce cancer risk:

  • Tobacco use screening and cessation programs for males and females ages 16 and older
  • Human papilloma virus vaccination for males and females ages 11-17
  • Cervical cancer (Pap testing) for women ages 21 -65
  • Liver cancer (various tests) for men and women ages 21-65
  • Breast cancer screening for women 50-75
  • Colorectal screening for men and women ages 50-75

Suarez, of HALO, said it is challenging to address cancer prevention and screening needs for the Asian populations served at HALO clinics, particularly among refugees from Southeast Asia.

“This community, when they were relocated to America, did not speak any English and were not well educated about healthcare,” he said. “They traditionally managed their care through shamanism, spirituality and herbs. There is not an understanding of what cancer is, especially among the older generations, and the younger generations are still influenced by the cultural traditions, so there is very little follow-through or adherence to medical care.”

Screenings will take place at HALO clinics with support from health educators who are bilingual and bicultural and from UC Davis specialists who can assist the clinics in use of the electronic medical record. The record can be used as a tool to alert medical providers about needed screenings, lab testing and other appropriate care.

Chen said the project will benefit from the expertise in community outreach obtained through the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART), which was headquartered at the Cancer Center and AACART and utilized lay health workers in community projects to reduce the cancer burden in these populations.

HALO providers also will get special training by UC Davis oncologists, and HALO patients suspected of having cancer may be referred to UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center for specialized care, resulting in a medical “concierge” type service for HALO patients.

John Damonti, president of Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, said the foundation is committed to addressing inequities in access to care for underserved and vulnerable populations in the U.S.

“It’s imperative that we continue to improve and deliver specialty care services to achieve more desirable outcomes for people living with cancer,” he said. “We are proud to support the UC Davis Division of Hematology and Oncology and Comprehensive Cancer and extend our reach among Asian Americans to improve access to treatment.”

About the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is committed to improving the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases by strengthening healthcare worker capacity, integrating medical care and community-based supportive services, and addressing unmet medical need. The Foundation engages partners to develop, execute, evaluate and promote innovative programs to help patients with lung cancer and removing barriers to accessing care in the United States, HIV and comorbid diseases such as cervical and breast cancers and tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa, hepatitis B and C in China and India and veterans’ mental health and well-being in the U.S. For more information about Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

About HALO

Health And Life Organization (HALO), Inc., is a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Public Benefit Corporation licensed in 2003 and designated as an FQHC-LA in 2008 to provide quality comprehensive primary healthcare to low income and ethnically diverse and underserved populations residing within the City of Sacramento.
HALO operates four Sacramento Community Clinics (SCC) serving as medical home nearly 30,000 individuals with more than 10,000 monthly encounters. We partner with organizations to provide professional and compassionate health. HALO’s Sacramento Community Clinics are committed to providing personalized, affordable, high-quality health services.

About the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 10,000 adults and children every year, and access to more than 425 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 300 scientists at UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, whose scientific partnerships advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis collaborates with hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California to offer the latest cancer-care services to their communities. UC Davis’ community-based outreach and education programs address disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations. For more information, visit