Iowans Awarded for Work to Reduce State’s High Cancer Burden
Coralville, IA – November 10, 2023 – Over 200 cancer advocates, survivors, researchers, health care providers, and public health professionals met in Ankeny this week for the annual Iowa Cancer Summit, hosted by the Iowa Cancer Consortium. Local and national experts discussed a variety of topics, including Iowa’s high cancer incidence rate (2nd in the country, according to the Iowa Cancer Registry) and cancers that Iowa ranks high in compared to other states such as head and neck cancer (1st), melanoma (5th), and colorectal cancer (7th).
Among those in attendance were several Iowans who were recognized by the Iowa Cancer Consortium and its board of directors for their contributions to reducing the burden of cancer in Iowa.
Richard Deming, MD (Des Moines) and Natoshia Askelson, MPH, PhD (Iowa City and rural Tama County) were each awarded the George Weiner Cancer Control Visionary Award. This award, named after hematologist and Director Emeritus of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, George Weiner, MD, is given annually to an individual who has kept their sights on their long-term, big-picture goal and worked tirelessly to achieve their desired outcome in cancer control.
Kelly Wells Sittig, Iowa Cancer Consortium Executive Director (North Liberty), Mary Charlton, PhD, Iowa Cancer Consortium Board President (Iowa City), Richard Deming, MD, Iowa Cancer Consortium Board Vice President (Des Moines), and George Weiner, MD, Iowa Cancer Consortium Immediate Past President (Iowa City). Photo Credit: Adam Orton, Dreamcity Cinema.
“After 33 years in Radiation Oncology and patients seeking his uplifting approach to cancer care, Dr. Deming is now able to put his whole heart into what brings him joy – seeing all patients thrive. Through the development of the Integrative Medicine program at the MercyOne Richard Deming Cancer Center, his daily focus has become how to help all patients live their best life.” said Kylie Cooper, Director of Integrative Medicine at MercyOne Richard Deming Cancer Center.
Kelly Wells Sittig, Iowa Cancer Consortium Executive Director (North Liberty), Mary Charlton, PhD, Iowa Cancer Consortium Board President (Iowa City), Natoshia Askelson, MPH, PhD, 2023 George Weiner Cancer Control Visionary Award Winner (Iowa City and rural Tama County), and George Weiner, MD, Iowa Cancer Consortium Immediate Past President (Iowa City). Photo Credit: Adam Orton, Dreamcity Cinema.
Natoshia Askelson, MPH, PhD, is an associate professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa and Interim Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center (HCCC). “Dr. Askelson has been engaged in HPV-vaccine related research and promoting its implementation since 2008.” said Michael Henry, PhD, Interim Director at HCCC. “Her vision, recognizing that reducing the burden of cancer in Iowa by improving the health of its communities is a long game that cannot be won without collaboration and multi-pronged approaches, makes her an exceptional candidate for this award.”
The Iowa Cancer Champion Award was also given to two winners this year – Ingrid Lizarraga, MBBS (Coralvilla) and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Team Iowa. This award is given annually to an individual or organization demonstrating a commitment to reducing the burden of cancer in Iowa through work on policy, systems, and environmental change.
Ingrid Lizarraga, MBBS (Coralville). Photo Credit: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Ingrid Lizarraga, MBBS, is a breast surgeon and clinical professor in the University of Iowa Department of Surgery in the Carver College of Medicine. Through her roles as State Chair for Iowa with the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC) and Medical Director for the Iowa Cancer Affiliate Network, “Dr. Lizarraga works tirelessly toward the goal of ensuring that cancer patients in Iowa can get standard of care treatment regardless of where they live, and that cancer providers in Iowa have the resources and support to provide high quality cancer care to their patients regardless of where they practice.” said Mary Charlton, PhD, board president of the Iowa Cancer Consortium, director of the Iowa Cancer Registry, and Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Kevin Kann, American Cancer Society Executive Director – Iowa (Des Moines), Richard Deming, MD, American Cancer Society Iowa Leadership Council Member (Des Moines), Morgan Newman, Cervivor and ACS CAN volunteer (Des Moines), Jackie Cale, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Iowa Government Relations Director (Des Moines), Kelly Wells Sittig, Iowa Cancer Consortium Executive Director (North Liberty), Mary Charlton, PhD, Iowa Cancer Consortium Board President (Iowa City), and Emily Hoffman, John Stoddard Cancer Center and Cervivor and ACS CAN volunteer (West Des Moines). Photo Credit: Adam Orton, Dreamcity Cinema.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Iowa Team consists of a dedicated group of volunteers and advocates from across the state, led by Iowa Government Relations Director, Jackie Cale. The team advocates for policies at the local, state, and federal levels to decrease the burden of cancer for patients and caregivers. The ACS CAN Iowa Team took home the title of State Advocacy Team of the Year in 2022 at ACS CAN’s Federal Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., for their work passing the Gail Orcutt School Radon Safety Bill in Iowa, which took over 10 years to pass. This bill ensures Iowa’s students, teachers, and school staff will not be exposed to harmful radon gas, the second-leading cause of lung cancer, while learning.
The final award was the Spirit of Collaboration Award, given to Georgia Hodge (Cedar Falls). This award honors an Iowa Cancer Consortium member with an outstanding commitment to collaborative cancer control efforts in Iowa.
Kelly Wells Sittig, Iowa Cancer Consortium Executive Director (North Liberty), Georgia Hodge, Iowa Cancer Consortium and FRIENDS of Community Health (Cedar Falls), and Mary Charlton, PhD, Iowa Cancer Consortium Board President (Iowa City). Photo Credit: Adam Orton, Dreamcity Cinema.
From her cancer diagnosis 34 years ago and caring for her mother who had pancreatic cancer, Georgia has made it her mission to educate, support and advocate for her community in Black Hawk County. Georgia developed FRIENDS of Community Health, a non-profit organization that addresses health disparities to create a better quality of life for individuals experiencing cancer, and the community as a whole.
“Georgia Hodge is a warrior for communities of color.” said Lisa Lima of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Southwest Iowa. “She works tirelessly, outreaching to different groups and supporting their cancer health needs. She educates, advocates, and activates others.”
The Iowa Cancer Consortium is Iowa’s statewide comprehensive cancer coalition. As a leader in cancer control, the Iowa Cancer Consortium offers the state’s key cancer partners and advocates access to resources, expertise, and non-competitive collaboration across traditional boundaries for a bigger impact in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, quality of life, and health equity.
The Iowa Cancer Summit is Iowa’s only conference dedicated to comprehensive cancer control.