March 5, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 11

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    MAGIC, cancer center team up to spread word on HPV

    By Deva Woodly
    News Office

    SSA alumnus Joseph Strickland (A.M.,’02) has been encouraging teens to work, think and speak for themselves through his nonprofit organization MAGIC, which he founded in 2001. The Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization has a number of programs that encourage creativity, nurture leadership ability and promote good health.

    Carlos Meyers, director of health advocacy for MAGIC, has partnered with the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center to offer an informational town hall meeting on cervical cancer prevention at the Kennedy-King College.

    “We have to begin to live healthier lives by taking the steps to get and share accurate information about the health issues facing our children and our communities, and that is the reason MAGIC has partnered with the University,” said Meyers, who also is CEO of Beyond Care, a community health services consulting firm.

    The town hall meeting, titled “Our Daughters, Our Duty,” will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 7 at the Kennedy-King College. Rick Kittles, Associate Professor in Genetic Medicine and Director for Diversity and Community Outreach, and Kenneth Alexander, a noted human papillomavirus researcher and Associate Professor in Pediatrics at the University, will help community members understand the role that HPV plays in the development of cervical cancer and how to prevent contracting the disease.

    “We know that there is a vaccine that can prevent 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts resulting from HPV infection, but we also know that parents and community members might have concerns about the vaccine,” said Meyers. This forum is an attempt to address these concerns in an environment meant to encourage the thoughtful exchange of ideas as well as the dissemination of valuable information.

    Alexander, who has been researching the papillomavirus since 1992, said, “With the advent of the vaccine, I knew that thepeople who stand the most to benefit from it would likely also be the people who have the hardest time getting it. That’s why I wanted to get this information out to traditionally underserved medical populations.”

    Both Meyers and Alexander noted that since the HPV vaccine has been such a high-profile vaccine, there has been a lot of misinformation about it. “There are a lot of people who have alleged that the vaccine is dangerous or promotes sexual activity, but as a matter of rigorous research, the only danger we have found is that the vaccine may make your arm sore for a couple of days.

    “HPV is not the only vaccine recommended for teenagers, but both the medical community and the community at large are not used to thinking about vaccinating teenagers. But when you think about the vaccines we want to develop in the future, such as an HIV vaccine, those will be going into teenagers, too, so we need to wake people up.”

    In the end, Alexander, who is a parent, asserts, “We all have the same goal, we want to do right by our kids. It is not necessary to tell anyone what to do. I believe if you give parents accurate information they will make good decisions that they are happy with.”

    To RSVP, call Healthlink at (773) 702-9200.