Community Research Ambassadors

The Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) is looking to pilot a new program in Fall 2020, and we are looking for cancer survivors and caregivers who may be interested in participating.

What is the program?

Our proposed pilot program is called Community REsearch Ambassadors Together Ending Cancer (CREATE). CREATE has two main goals:

As part of CREATE, each Community Research Ambassador will join one other Community Research Ambassador and two NCCC scientists to work as a team. The team will create educational information that will be used to educate the public about cancer research. By the end of the one-year pilot project, the teams’ efforts will lead to education about cancer research being shared with the public via NCCC’s website, social media, videos, and virtual community events.

What does being a Community Research Ambassador involve?

At the start of the program, NCCC will orient Community Research Ambassadors to their role in the program; what cancer research is; how to clearly communicate scientific information; and how to create information for websites and social media, videos, and virtual community events.

  1. To give cancer survivors and caregivers an opportunity to have a positive impact on cancer research happening at NCCC by serving as Community Research Ambassadors.
  2. To educate the public about the importance of cancer research while highlighting NCCC scientists’ important research findings.

After being oriented, Community Research Ambassadors will join their teammates for a virtual ‘retreat’ to get to know each other and to begin planning the education they will create for the public. Each team will decide how often they would like to meet throughout the year as they work together to create educational information for NCCC’s website, social media, videos, and virtual community events.

Community Research Ambassadors will also be invited to participate on NCCC’s Community Advisory Board, which meets quarterly. This board is made-up of community members, community organizations, health care providers, and NCCC scientists. The purpose of the board is to advise on NCCC’s research and community outreach efforts.

To protect our Community Research Ambassadors, scientists, and community partners, all events and meetings will be held virtually for the foreseeable future. Ambassadors will be compensated for completing a variety of tasks throughout the year, including compensation for participating in orientation sessions and meetings. Should in-person meetings or events take place, travel reimbursement will be provided.

Who would make a great Community Research Ambassador?

Community Research Ambassadors are cancer survivors or caregivers who live in Vermont or New Hampshire. A great Community Research Ambassador is someone who enjoys working with others, is excited to spread the word about the importance of cancer research, and is eager to learn new things.

During our initial one-year pilot project, eight NCCC scientists are excited to team-up with Community Research Ambassadors. These scientists’ research work focuses on colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma. Because of this, we are looking for cancer survivors or caregivers who have personal experience with these cancers.

Community Research Ambassadors do not need to have any background in science; research; health care; or developing communications such as messaging for social media, websites, and videos. In fact, we welcome Community Research Ambassadors with a variety of different backgrounds.

Who are the eight NCCC scientists participating in the pilot project, and what is their research about?

Richard Barth, MD and Keith Paulsen, PhD 

Drs. Paulsen and Barth invented the Breast Cancer Locator, which is a 3D-printed form that can be made for patients who need breast lumpectomy, based on the patient’s MRI images. The Breast Cancer Locator helps surgeons remove lumps while minimizing the among of healthy breast tissue removed.

Gary Schwartz, MD and Todd Miller, PhD 

Drs. Schwarz and Miller have researched approaches to using estrogen therapy for breast cancer treatment.

Arief Suriawinata, MD and Saeed Hassanpour, PhD

Drs Hassanpour and Suriawinata have developed technology that can be used to identify different types of colorectal polyps removed during colonoscopies. This is important because the number and types of polyps found during colorectal cancer screening indicate future risk of developing cancer.

Keisuke Shirai, MD, MSc and Mary Jo Turk, PhD

Drs. Turk and Shirai conduct research looking at ways to promote long-term immunity in melanoma survivors.

When will the pilot program take place?

NCCC is hopeful to receive grant funding from the National Cancer Institute to fund this program. If we are selected for funding, the pilot program would start in October or November 2020 and last one year. At the end of the one-year funding period, we will work with the Community Research Ambassadors and scientists to evaluate the program and make improvements before expanding and continuing the program.

Who can I contact to express my interest?

Anyone who is interested in becoming a Community Research Ambassador should contact Jenna Schiffelbein, NCCC’s Director of Community Education and Prevention. Jenna can be reached at