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Grant with UNCP connections will give a boost to October 24 cancer awareness event in Fairmont

October 13, 2009

A National Institute of Health (NIH) grant written by a UNC Pembroke professor will raise breast cancer awareness in the local community.


Frankie Denise Powell

The $40,000 grant, titled “Saving Ourselves: Minority Women and Mammography,” will help the Sisters Network of Southeastern North Carolina build cancer awareness in minority communities.

The non-profit cancer survivor network will hold a rally on October 24 in Fairmont, N.C., including a health fair and a grassroots “gift for life” campaign.

“We will walk block-by-block talking about breast cancer and early detection,” said Irene Stuart, president of the Sisters Network. “This is a very worthy cause and much needed in this community.”

Registration is 9 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Fairmont. Each year the Sisters Network holds a rally in a different Robeson County community.

One of the approximately 200 volunteers knocking on doors again this year will be Frankie Denise Powell, Ph.D. She is a member of the faculty of UNCP’s School of Education and author of the NIH grant.

“We are blessed to have volunteers like Frankie because of her enthusiasm and her skill as a grant writer,” Stuart said. “We are so grateful for her, and she’s so humble.”

A Winston-Salem, N.C., native, Dr. Frankie Denise Powell came to Southeastern North Carolina from Philadelphia, Pa., in 2007.

With an outstanding record of teaching and research, she was never a fish out of water in this rural corner of the state. Dr. Powell joined a local church where she found the Sisters Network.

“She has jumped into the community,” Stuart said.

For her part, Dr. Powell exudes energy and enthusiasm for the cause of cancer awareness.

“Last year, we saved a life by convincing a woman to get a mammogram,” Dr. Powell said. “That’s what this is about; it works!”

Putting on her academic hat, Dr. Powell discussed her research on “disparities” between rich and poor, minority and mainstream.

“When talking about health disparities, you are talking about some groups who are very successful at living long lives and beating diseases like cancer, and another group who is not,” she said.

Disparities – educational and health – are Dr. Powell’s specialty area of research and grant writing. She’s been at it for many years.

Ten years ago, she successfully wrote a grant titled “Family Breast Cancer Education: A Model for Southern Minority Women.” Another successful grant was titled “A Community Assets Approach to Breast Cancer Education.”

A paper she recently co-authored on cancer education was published in the Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice in 2008.

“We find that low levels of literacy dovetails with low health literacy,” Dr. Powell said. “That’s why the door-to-door approach that the Sisters Network employs is an appropriate model.”

In an earlier career, Dr. Powell worked many years as a pediatric behavior rehabilitation specialist.

“I worked with a variety of behavior disorders,” she said. “I went back to school to learn how to better serve children.”

Dr. Powell is pleased to win the NIH grant. It will offset costs for the Sisters Network so they can invest in more education and free mammograms.

For the first time, they will have a one-day education forum. And Dr. Frankie Denise Powell will be there making a difference.

The NIH grant is part of its EARDA program or Extramural Associates Research and Development Award. Administered through UNCP’s Office of Research Development, the program serves to assist University faculty and administrators in writing pilot proposals in biomedical and behavioral research, said Heather Walters, program administrator.

“Dr. Powell’s grant proposal was right on target for this program,” Walters said. “I would like to talk to more faculty about their ideas.

EARDA is a $500,000, five-year program. The Office of Research Development may be contacted at 910.521.6650 or