Community service is a priority for the Department of Biochemistry. Biochemistry faculty, stagff, and students provide leadership for the Vermont Cancer Coalition (Vermonters Taking Action Against Cancer), they provide leadership for the development and implementation of the Centers for Disease Control-funded Vermont Cancer Plan which is a partnership between the University of Vermont, the Vermont Department of Health, and the American Cancer Society with contributions by several cancer advocacy groups. The grant from the CDC to support the Vermont Cancer Coalition, a collaboration with the Vermont Department of Health, has been transferred to the Larner College of Medicine.

Recently, Biochemistry Department members have provided leadership for task forces in the Vermont Cancer Coalition to address the challenges of sustaining progress in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship that patients and healthcare professionals have encountered with the necessity for safe practices and restrictions and experience delays during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the prevention, treatment, and survivorship programs were “put on hold” or experienced delays. They are providing guidance for “catch-up” to resume progress that has been made in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship as we emerge from a pandemic. There is a necessity to maximize our available capabilities to accelerate the reduction in the burden of cancer and restore the momentum for making cancer a preventable and treatable disease. For the Biochemistry Department, this is a priority locally, regionally, and beyond. I am working with colleagues to explore strategic initiatives for restoring initiatives in the prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship of prevalent chronic diseases that include cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, cancer, and substance disorders.

Providing leadership for the Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network, Biochemistry faculty are implementing a program that addresses the unique challenges in rurality for health and healthcare in northern New England with Maine Medical Center leadership as a partner.

With a commitment to community engagement and understanding of the unique challenges of health and healthcare and patient-centric communication, Biochemistry faculty recognize the necessity to engage in rural primary care practices in translational and clinical research initiatives. During the past year, and with the responsiveness to the health and healthcare requirements in rural Vermont communities and in rural communities throughout northern New England, Biochemistry faculty, as members of the Board of Directors for the Northern New England Primary Care Practice-Based Research Network CO-OP, are working with colleagues to: 1) strengthen the programs in alignment with unique and shared requirements of rural northern New England communities; 2) formally bring about a restructuring of the Dartmouth Primary Care CO-OP Practice-Based Research Network to become the Northern New England Primary Care Practice-Based Research Network CO-OP with equivalent representation of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine; 3) incorporating the Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network into a decisive leadership position for the CO-OP; 4) development and implementation of collaborative projects that include the Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network and the CO- OP to address HPV vaccination hesitancy for adolescents and adults for development and immediately implement initiatives to increase COVID vaccination in rural northern New England communities with education programs to reinforce the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and to determine “messages for overcoming vaccine hesitancy” with approaches and “language” that resonates with unique community requirements that are identified through bi-directional planning with regional communities; 5) support development of an NIH-funded program to address COVID-19 testing hesitancy in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine; and 6) engage colleagues in the University of Massachusetts Medical School CTSA for collaborative initiatives in rectifying health and healthcare disparities encountered the contiguous rural northern New England region that includes Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and western Massachusetts.

Biochemistry faculty, staff, and students frequently participate in American Cancer Society community events, and work with cancer advocacy groups to increase understanding of options and opportunities for reducing the burden of cancer. They meet with legislators and thought leaders at the state, national, and community levels to emphasize that accelerating advances in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship is not an option, but a responsibility and an obligation that must be reinforced post COVID.