Addressing the burden of cancer is a high priority professionally and personally for Semra Aytur, PhD, epidemiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy at University of New Hampshire.

“Like so many others, cancer has deeply affected the lives of my family and friends,” she said. “I am honored to serve on the NH Comprehensive Cancer Collaboration’s Board of Directors and as co-leader of the Equity Task Force to give back to the cancer community.”

Since the Task Force formed in 2015, a dedicated group of multidisciplinary professionals has worked diligently to increase the percentage of colorectal, cervical, and breast cancer screenings, especially within disparate populations with the goal of preventing and detecting cancer at its earliest stage.

They have targeted populations less likely to receive cancer screenings by researching state industry and occupation data. The Task Force mailed information about free breast and cervical screening services and tobacco treatment resources to 1,500 businesses and developed a White Paper, Examining Preventive Cancer Screening Rates Among Vulnerable Adults in NH.

In addition, Semra and Jenna Schiffelbein, co-leaders of the Equity Task Force, recently presented Task Force information about the Serving Up Health project study that assesses smoking among food service workers. The poster was presented at the Ninth Annual C. Everett Koop, MD, Tobacco Treatment Conference: Celebrating Koop’s Centenarian Anniversary Conquering the Tobacco Epidemic at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

At UNH, Semra’s research, teaching, and service focuses on chronic disease prevention. Current research suggests that our natural, built, and social environment or social determinants of health, influence our exposures, behaviors, and access to resources during our lives, thus contributing to approximately 70% of the burden of chronic disease and associated medical costs in the U.S.

Much of her work is on building community partnerships and multi-sectoral collaborations to increase collective resilience to cancer and other chronic diseases. About three months ago, Semra and many NH CCC members presented Empowering Oncology Patients for Healthy Living at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine’s Open House/Town Hall Meeting.

She recently worked with many colleagues on a number of presentations that are center stage at November’s American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta, Ga.

Presentation abstracts include:

Semra teaches undergraduates and graduate students in health policy, epidemiology, and public health and enjoys seeing the next generation of healthcare professionals.

“I am also always looking for ways to involve students in research, evaluation, and service projects, and some of my students have benefitted greatly from being able to work on cancer-related projects with other NH CCC members,” she said.

In addition, she has worked with several NH CCC members to submit abstracts to the Active Living Research Annual Conference from February 11-14 in Banff, Canada.

“I have been honored to meet so many new people through my work with NH CCC,” Semra said. “I have rarely encountered such a committed group of professionals who are all dedicated to working together toward the same goals.”