Widespread adoption of the Pap smear has significantly reduced cervical cancer incidence and mortality in the US. However, not all US women have benefited equally. Female firefighters contribute disproportionately to cervical cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality. This project proposes to address cervical cancer disparity in female firefighters and examine the feasibility of a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) self-sampler as a means to circumvent occupational time constraints (i.e. shift work) and barriers to routine cancer screenings in firefighters. The career development plan and research outlined in this K01 proposal will allow Dr. Schaefer Solle to build upon her background in chronic disease prevention and health promotion; combine her interests in occupational health and cancer prevention strategies; and develop her skills in intervention design and occupational epidemiology. The institutional environment for occupational health and safety research at the University of Miami is outstanding, and Dr. Schaefer Solle's proposed mentorship team includes accomplished mentors with established, multidisciplinary research programs. Under the mentorship of Dr. David Lee, occupational health epidemiologist and Dr. Erin Kobetz, Cancer Prevention Interventionist, Dr. Schaefer Solle will: 1) determine the feasibility of implementing a HPV self-sampler intervention in a sample of female firefighters in South Florida; 2) determine the acceptability of implementing HPV self-sampling in a sample of female firefighters in South Florida; and 3) identify cervical cancer risk factors within the study sample. Consistent with the goals of the NIOSH Research to Practice (R2P) approach, the proposed K01 research proposal will incorporate the key elements of partnerships and communication through our established relationship and ongoing dialogue with fire departments of Florida. The ultimate goal of this work is to reduce the incidence of chronic disease in firefighters and create health awareness based on occupational exposures and cancer risk (NORA Public Safety Sector Strategic Goal 1 and Intermediate Goal 1.1). This harmonizes with Dr. Schaefer Solle's ultimate career goal of becoming an occupational health researcher with skillset in the design, implementation and evaluation of cancer screening interventions in high- risk worker groups including firefighters.
It has been widely understood that firefighters are routinely exposed to materials that may cause cancer while on the job, which may contribute to the higher number of cancer cases in firefighters, specifically women firefighters. Guided by the RE-AIM conceptual framework, the proposed study aims to address cervical cancer disparity in female firefighters through an initiative that tests an innovative method for disease prevention as well as train a new occupational health researcher with the skillset to develop and evaluate workplace interventions with a focus on cancer prevention.