AACI's Strategic Impact: Promoting Engagement in Cancer Research, Equity, and Care
Jennifer W. Pegher, M.A., M.B.A., AACI Executive Director
The Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) represents more than 100 premier academic and freestanding cancer centers in North America. AACI is accelerating progress against cancer by enhancing the impact of academic cancer centers and promoting cancer health equity. The National Cancer Plan provides structure and strategies that help guide AACI’s work on behalf of the cancer centers.
One of AACI’s flagship programs, Clinical Research Innovation, promotes efficient and effective operation of cancer clinical research offices. The program aims to engage every person by improving cancer clinical trials for all patients.
Inclusive Excellence, the presidential initiative of AACI President Dr. Robert A. Winn, exemplifies a collaborative approach to eliminating inequities by creating opportunities for research, training and education, and patient navigation. Outreach extends beyond the traditional cancer community, with historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, minority-serving institutions, and international cancer groups identified as potential partners.
AACI’s immediate past president, Dr. Caryn Lerman, aimed to optimize the oncology workforce through her presidential initiative, which focused on diversifying the oncology leadership pipeline and providing training and mentorship for emerging leaders. She led an assessment of the diversity of cancer center leadership that was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and spearheaded the annual Leadership Diversity and Development Workshop as a component of the initiative.
In 2023, AACI partnered with the American Cancer Society and the Cancer Center Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Network to introduce the annual DEI Summit. AACI also participated in VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center’s first annual Catchment Area Data Conference, which convened experts to share best practices for maximizing data utility. In addition, AACI hosts the Catchment Area Research and Data Science listserv, and in 2020, as part of Dr. Karen E. Knudsen’s presidential initiative, AACI surveyed members on catchment area demographics. The results formalized the catchment areas served by major cancer centers and identified gaps and priority areas.
Beyond its alignment with AACI’s portfolio of projects, the National Cancer Plan mirrors the goals of AACI cancer centers: to prevent cancer, detect cancers early, develop effective treatments, and deliver optimal care.