Spiritual Connections

Dr. Gustavo Leone and Dr. Marvella Ford
Dr. Marvella Ford and Dr. Gustavo Leone announce partnership plans.

Standing before a crowd of a couple of thousand people in Florence, S.C., Gustavo Leone, Ph.D., and Marvella Ford, Ph.D., announced their excitement about a new partnership that will enhance community outreach.

They made the announcement to a group gathered for the LevelUp 2018 Fall Planning Convocation and Theological Institute of the Seventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The goal is to develop a long-term partnership that will have a special emphasis on better equipping the medically underserved population of the state with improved education, health and resources.

Part of that partnership includes Movenup, which is a statewide cancer education program that uses a train-the-trainer approach that disseminates information about cancer prevention, screening and treatment options. It also features a module on clinical trials and their vital role in developing tomorrow’s cancer treatments. Ford, who leads the program, says it engages the community in improving its own health. Churches are an important part of that outreach.

“I think faith and health go hand in hand in so many ways,” she says.

For many people, church is where they connect and socialize. What better place to foster trust and engage the entire community in becoming healthier, she says. It’s also a perfect setting to discuss the importance of including more diverse populations in cancer clinical trials.

“Even today, many scientific papers include a footnote or statement saying that they don’t know whether the treatment will work in different population groups because the study lacked a sufficient number of representatives from that group,” she says. “If we don’t participate in trials, we’re missing out on important information.”