October 17 2023
Dr. Megan Mullins, NRG’s Cancer Care Delivery Research (CCDR) committee member, continues advancing health equity with her latest publication, “Barriers, Facilitators, and Recommendations, for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data Collection in Community Oncology Practices”.1 Beyond her commitment to this pressing challenge, Dr. Mullins exemplifies a commitment to team science. She assembled a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional team comprised of public health, physical medicine/rehabilitation, social welfare, nursing, and health policy experts. The team constitution, alone, sets a precedent for the multidisciplinary science essential to sound cancer care deliver research. Moreover, Dr. Mullins’ sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) exploration team includes an NCORP community site stakeholder well-positioned to inform study relevance, design, and dissemination necessary to integrate evidence into practice.The team constitution demonstrates the mosaic of NRGs’ professional network and Dr. Mullins’ ability to marshal these resources. Dr. Mullins’ latest work also affirms two long-standing NRG Oncology aspirations: advance clinically relevant science and sustained commitment to personal accountability for health equity.
Dr. Mullins explores disentangling the complex explanations for suboptimal SOGI data collection.Of note, Dr. Mullins observed respondents perceived SOGI questions held comparatively lower priority for optimal oncology care. Similarly, providers lacked knowledge regarding SOGI data collection benefits-identifying, understanding, and intervening on disparate cancer risk, later stage diagnosis, and compromised care satisfaction sexual and gender minorities face. Dr. Mullins’ findings indicated providers expressed concern that SOGI solicitation may create patient discomfort.In Dr. Mullins nuanced examination of these findings; she encourages continued exploration to discern whether provider assertions reflect displaced feelings (e.g., providers projecting their own discomfort onto patients) or warranted aspirations to preserve patient comfort.
Most importantly, Dr. Mullins’ scholarship encourages cultural humility, a concept advocated by NRG Oncology health disparities expert Kate Yeager, RN, PhD.2 Cultural humility encourages life-long self-reflection where individuals don’t merely learn another’s culture, but critically examine their own beliefs and identities. Cultural humility requires one to contemplate their own assumptions, biases, and values, ultimately elucidating how one’s own background and social environment informs one’s perspective. Dr. Mullins’ work encourages reflection on how our very identities, in part or whole, fundamentally determine how and what we define as problems warranting cancer care delivery research. Thus, Dr. Mullins’ work encourages our inquiry beyond the pragmatic and utilitarian (yet essential) call for enhanced data collection diversity. Dr. Mullins’ work, and NRG’s CCDR committee, demands our sustained commitment to equity scholarship; Dr. Mullins’ work calls us to predicate this commitment on an authentic self-assessment begetting comprehensive inquiry advantageous for subsequent intervention development. Dr. Mullins’ work, while timely, exemplifies NRG Oncology’s historic and sustained commitment to authentic exploration of health equity.
1. Mullins MA, Reber L, Washington A, et al. Barriers, facilitators, and recommendations for sexual orientation and gender identity data collection in community oncology practices. Cancer Medicine 2023;12(18):19203-19214 Read the article
2. Yeager KA, Bauer-Wu S. Cultural humility: essential foundation for clinical researchers. Applied nursing research : ANR. 2013;26(4):251-256.