The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and South Asian Total Health Initiative Join Forces to Offer Screenings and Education for Growing South Asian-American Community

April 7, 2010

New Brunswick, N.J.– Seeking better health outcomes for one of New Jersey’s fastest growing populations, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) is working closely with the South Asian Total Health Initiative (SATHI) to educate South Asian-Americans about their risks for cancer and to offer them various opportunities for cancer screenings.  CINJ is a Center of Excellence at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

SATHI is a community outreach education and research initiative at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School with the mission to address health disparities and to improve the delivery of culturally competent health care to South Asians, including the promotion of cancer awareness. Data from the last U.S. Census in 2000 showed that in New Jersey, the South Asian-American population grew by 101,000 in the 1990’s to 181,000.  The census now being compiled is likely to show further growth in this population.  The most common cancers to affect this group are breast, prostate, oral and cervical.   

According to SATHI Co-Director Sunanda Gaur, MD, professor of pediatrics at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, cultural sensitivity is a key aspect of preventive health measures.  “There are many barriers within the South Asian-American population when it comes to preventive health, as it is not commonly available or practiced in South Asian countries.  Therefore, many immigrants have not had the experience of visiting a doctor for routine health checks, instead seeking medical care only when symptoms appear,” said Dr. Gaur.  “Furthermore, when it comes to topics such as breast health and mammograms, cultural barriers may prevent discussion within families.” Gaur emphasizes that research needs to be conducted to understand the cultural barriers that may prevent South Asians from obtaining routine cancer screenings.

CINJ and SATHI are working together to improve cancer awareness and provide screenings and educational information in a number of languages specific to the South Asian community.  Molly Gabel, MD, deputy director of extramural affairs at CINJ, and associate professor of radiation oncology at UMNDJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, says it is imperative that this education effort begin immediately.  “There exists a serious risk of having a whole new generation of South Asian-Americans not taking part in cancer screenings, proven to help detect cancer at an earlier and more treatable stage.  By working with SATHI to further educate the South Asian-American population and break down these barriers by offering screenings in non-medical community settings, we can develop materials and intervention programs that would encourage individuals in the South Asian community to be more educated and  proactive in maintaining their health,” she said. 

Both Dr. Gabel and SATHI Co-Director Naveen Mehrotra, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor at UMNDJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, also note the need for cultural competency training among healthcare professionals for this community, so that they can better communicate with patients of South Asian descent.  CINJ and SATHI are exploring ways on how to educate those in the healthcare field.

Cancer screening events are expected to be scheduled throughout the year at temples and community centers in central and northern New Jersey, with the first one slated for April 11th at the Edison Community Center – Minnie Veal Recreation Center site in the township.  The screening event is being organized through the efforts of the Middlesex County Cancer Coalition and the NJ CEED Program in conjunction with CINJ and SATHI. For additional information, please contact SATHI at 732-235-8975, or

About The Cancer Institute of New Jersey

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. CINJ’s physician-scientists engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support CINJ, call 732-235-8614 or visit CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

The CINJ Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides a mechanism to rapidly disseminate important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital, Cooper University Hospital and Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Affiliate Hospitals: Bayshore Community Hospital, CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Mountainside Hospital, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton (CINJ at Hamilton), Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Somerset Medical Center, Southern Ocean County Hospital, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center at Princeton. *Academic Affiliate


The South Asian Total Health Initiative (SATHI) is a comprehensive, multifaceted initiative to improve the delivery of culturally competent healthcare and information about total health for the South Asian community. SATHI collects research-based data on factors that influence healthcare decisions affecting people of South Asian origin, including family dynamics, patients’ health beliefs and socioeconomic concerns. In addition to research, SATHI seeks to educate, engage and empower the South Asian community to promote wellness and improve health outcomes. It is a program of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Department of Pediatrics.  For more information about SATHI call 732-235-8975 or visit:




Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







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