Meet 5 For The Fight Fellow: Charles R. Rogers, PhD, MPH, MS, MCHES®
Fighting to prevent cancer for the medically underserved through 5 For The Fight, the cancer crowdfunding campaign and patch partner of the Utah Jazz
“My 5 is for my Aunt Joann. After numerous misdiagnoses, we found out she had stage IV colorectal cancer (CRC) in 2009. She was screened at 52 and her late diagnosis put her chance of survival at 10%. If she had been screened earlier — especially if we consider the recommendations in place since 2008 for African Americans to get screened at 45 due to getting CRC earlier and at a more advanced stage — she may still be here today. I’m thankful I was able to witness her thrive through this preventable disease for eight years, yet I have dedicated my life to eliminating cancer and health disparities among various medically underserved and socially vulnerable populations in her honor.”
— Dr. Charles R. Rogers, @crrogersPhD
Charles R. Rogers hails from rural North Carolina. He defines the word rural as “chicken houses, pitch black at night, no streetlights, and the very high chance of a deer hitting your vehicle all year round if you’re out and about driving at night.”
After growing up and witnessing health disparities in his own community, he chose to become the type of research doctor who focuses on prevention and helps your body not be in such a very bad state when you visit a medical provider.
He and his team recently identified hotspots of early-onset colorectal cancer (CRC) mortality across the country among young people diagnosed with CRC before age 50.
“The 5 For The Fight Cancer Research Fellowship at Huntsman Cancer Institute is a huge, great jumpstart for me to continue this work that’s very important and needed, since incidence rates among those ages 20–34 are predicted to increase 90%–124% by 2030, and 28%–46% among Americans ages 35–49.”
Rogers is motivated to fight cancer through his work in unexpected places. One such place was bringing awareness to state fairs.
“I led a seven-day study in 2014 where we set up a huge inflatable colon — welcoming over 24,600 people — at the Minnesota State Fair. More than 300 African American men completed surveys on iPads,” he says. Rogers remembers one African American participant who came through who appeared young and healthy. The participant was 22 years old and didn’t have a family history of CRC. He went to the doctor three or four times to address gastrointestinal issues. He got misdiagnosed every time. And then, on the fifth doctor visit, he found out he had stage IV CRC. He told Rogers, “’You have to keep doing this important work and continue to consider people like me who are younger than the recommended screening age of 50.’”
Rogers already holds a prestigious K01 — a training grant for promising young researchers funded by the National Cancer Institute. His project is coined #CuttingCRC. Rogers takes the CRC prevention and awareness message to barbershops, churches, and now the Vivint Smart Home Arena, thanks to the 5 For The Fight’s partnership with the Utah Jazz.
“We’ve seen some athletes take a break from their career so they can focus on the current racial injustice in America, including the senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others,” Rogers says. “The same attention and urgency are needed for eliminating cancer disparities.”
“Black men have a 47% higher chance of dying from colon cancer than white men. This is unacceptable and should be trending too.”
What is your advice for young scientists?
“Comparison is the thief of joy, so continue to focus on improving yourself and your craft, as you are your biggest opponent.”
What would you tell a person affected by the cancer areas you research?
“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.”
Find out more about the research you have helped fund through the 5 For The Fight Cancer Research Fellowship at Huntsman Cancer Institute.
5 For The Fight invites everyone to give $5 for the fight against cancer at 5forthefight.org