History of Our Patient Navigation

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A Leader in Patient-Centered Navigation

Since 2006, Smith Center has brought innovative programs, unmatched expertise and a unique approach to patient navigation.

We instituted the first-ever breast cancer navigation program at Howard University Cancer Center (HUCC) in 2006, making a difference in the lives of over 300 underserved African American patients.

Smith Center’s hospital-based navigation program has been credited by HUCC leadership as playing a vital role in encouraging patients to seek and complete treatment. Patient navigation has been cited as having the single greatest impact on increasing the value and quality of care given to patients at HUCC. In 2011, the hospital assumed the responsibility for the navigation program Smith Center introduced five years earlier, instituting the program as a permanent hospital service.

In 2007, we established two navigation programs in African-American churches located in the city’s most underserved areas. Since that time, we have expanded to four churches, and have partnered with local community organizations and healers to offer educational and outreach programs and individual counseling to an estimated 4,000 city residents who otherwise would not receive these services. We were awarded the prestigious Komen Academic Partnership Grant, partnering with Howard University’s Center for Urban Progress to evaluate and refine our model so that it can be used successfully in other urban underserved areas.

Smith Center has taken a lead role in navigation throughout the city, having chaired a Navigation Workgroup for the DC Cancer Consortium, and instituting the first discussion group for over 20 of the city’s patient navigators. We are currently participating in the development of a comprehensive city-wide patient navigation network for Washington, DC, partnering with 18 hospitals, clinics, and community service providers in an unprecedented effort to offer seamless navigation services to all residents of a major metropolitan area, under the leadership of George Washington University’s Cancer Institute. We also continue to participate in educating clinical staff at Howard University Cancer Center in integrative cancer care through their clinical lecture series.

Since 2009, we have offered a national training program in integrative cancer care navigation, one of the first in the country, that attracts health care professionals, healers, and lay navigators who wish to offer integrative, holistic support to their clients.

Our Navigation Programs

Hospital-Based Navigation (2006-2010)

Funder: Susan G. Komen for the Cure Community Partnership Grant

Smith Center introduced the first patient navigation integrative cancer care program to Howard University Cancer Center at Howard University Hospital, the nation’s oldest hospital serving African Americans. The program provided a hospital-based trained breast cancer survivor as a lay navigator to assist women and men diagnosed with breast cancer. The navigator offered free individual assistance, education, information, and emotional support. The program included education programs for patients and clinical staff in integrative cancer care.

Community Based Navigation (2006-Present)

Planning for Community Navigation
Funder: Lance Armstrong Foundation (2006-2007)

Under a 2006 Community Planning Grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Smith Center held a year-long dialogue with inner city churches-the life force of the African American community-in an effort to improve education, support and access to health and supportive resources for underserved African-American and African cancer survivors.

This unprecedented effort led by Smith Center to bring our integrative navigation model used in a hospital setting out into the community inspired health ministries and faith based leaders to work in partnership with us on survivorship issues that impact individuals who face some of the highest mortality rates from cancer in the US, and led to the creation of our faith-based navigation program.

Establishing Faith-Based Community Navigation
Funder: Quality Health Foundation (2007-2008)

Smith Center received initial funding for our community navigation program from the Quality Health Foundation, providing two trained lay navigators to offer free individual navigation services and education and outreach programs in the African American community, operating from churches located in some of the most underserved areas of our city.

Community Navigation Academic Partnership Grant (2009-2011)
Funder: Susan G. Komen for the Cure

In 2009, we were awarded a prestigious three-year Susan G. Komen for the Cure Academic Partnership Grant to expand and evaluate our faith-based community navigation program, partnering with Howard University’s Center for Urban Progress. We are currently operating individual navigation and community education outreach services from 4 African American churches in underserved areas. Through our partner, the African Women’s’ Cancer Awareness Association, we offer similar services using a community navigator that works exclusively with the African immigrant community in Washington. Since we began the program, we have reached an estimated 10,000 city residents who otherwise would not receive these services. We have conducted a community needs assessment  and have begun our evaluation of the program in order to refine our unique integrative navigation model so that it can be used successfully in other urban underserved areas.

Community Navigation Educational Workshop Series (2010-2011)
Funder: DC Cancer Consortium, DC Department of Health and Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Through our Community Navigation Program, Smith Center created a series of educational workshops for the underserved African American community of Washington on wellness and cancer prevention. The program, entitled “Wellness Works!” and Healthy U was designed to inform participants on the relationship of wellness to cancer prevention, introduce people to community navigation, and inspire people to make healthy lifestyle changes that reduce one’s risk of cancer. The six-week series of Saturday morning workshops on nutrition, exercise and stress reduction was designed for the entire family and attended by and has led to requests for more educational programs at the churches.

Soul Savory Cookbook (2010-2011)
Funder: DC Cancer Consortium, DC Department of Health and Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Our Community Navigators invited church members and African women in the community to share their family-favorite recipes with Laura Pole, Smith Center’s Health Supportive Chef, who transformed the recipes into healthier versions that support the principles of good nutrition. The result is ”Soul Savory: Celebrating Our Roots with Nourishing Recipes”, a cookbook that has been distributed to 2,000 city residents through our church navigators.

City-Wide Patient Navigation Network (2010-2011)
Funder: DC Cancer Consortium and DC Department of Health

Smith Center has joined forces with George Washington University and 18 city hospitals, clinics, and community organizations providing cancer care and cancer supportive resources to provide the nation’s first comprehensive provision of cancer patient navigation services that include education and outreach through screening, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Our Community Navigators are coordinating their navigation efforts with other navigators throughout the city to ensure that all city residents are aware of navigation services, and anyone facing cancer has access to navigation throughout their cancer experience.

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