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Markey's ACTION Program Announces Second Edition of Book

book cover of the cancer crisis in Appalachia
UK Markey Cancer Center's ACTION Program has published the second edition of their book, The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia, featuring 31 student essays.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 28, 2022) – The ACTION Program is publishing the second edition of their book, “The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia: Kentucky Students Take ACTION,” after their first edition was released in 2020.

Much like the first edition, the book consists of essays written by high school and undergraduate students who are Kentucky Appalachian residents and participants in the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) Program at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.

In the United States, cancer is the second leading cause of death, however, Kentucky has the highest cancer rates in the nation and these cancer rates are particularly concentrated in the 54 counties that make up the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

The essays included in this book reveal cancer’s impact on the personal lives and communities of the students who wrote them. As one of two editors of the book, ACTION Program Director Nathan L. Vanderford, Ph.D., talked about the importance of showing the impact through the eyes of eastern Kentucky natives.

“Through the perspective of our students, readers gain an understanding and appreciation for Appalachian Kentucky’s cancer burden and the consequences of the high cancer rates in the area,” said Vanderford. “Readers begin to learn what causes the high rates of cancer in the area, and they encounter our students’ strategies for how they think cancer rates can be reduced over time.”

To these students, these stories are an excellent way to practice research, writing and community outreach. Educating others on the impact that cancer has on Appalachian communities is one of the key components of what they do through the ACTION Program.

“Seeing how detrimental my grandfather’s battle with cancer was to him and my family influences me every day to share my story,” said Michael Buoncristiani, ACTION Program member and Wayne County native. “Growing up in Appalachia, you witness so many families around you being affected by a terrible disease, and at many times we accept it, but cancer does not have to be a death sentence.”

Vanderford and his students hope to not only utilize this book to educate Kentuckians on the severity of the cancer crisis in Appalachia, but they hope to reach people from outside the region as well.

“I think it is so important for Appalachians to share our cancer stories so that we can educate others about how devastatingly common cancer has become in our homes,” said Jessica Lamb, another member of the ACTION Program and a Garrard County native. “Appalachia is facing a war with cancer, and it requires recognition from those of us who live in the area and those who do not.”

Both Buoncristiani and Lamb have essays included in this second edition, along with 31 of their peers from the ACTION Program. The students featured in this edition are:

  • Ceana Bays, Clark County
  • Chezney Boothe, Perry County
  • Harley Bowen, Carter County
  • Kassidy Burke, Lawrence County
  • Caylee Caudill, Johnson County
  • Makinna Caudill, Magoffin County
  • Alexandra Combs, Wolfe County
  • Karlee Compton, Montgomery County
  • Isabella Dunn, Magoffin County
  • Emily Halcomb, Letcher County
  • Gracie Harper, Elliott County
  • Nathan Hogg, Rowan County
  • Wyatt McCarty, Rowan County
  • Allisa Pack, Lawrence County
  • Matthew Sanders, Laurel County
  • John Staton, Elliott County
  • Hanah Whisenant, Lawrence County
  • Zane Whitaker, Magoffin County
  • Carolene Willhoite, Montgomery County
  • Haseeb Ahmad, Pike County
  • Lindsay Bryant, Whitley County
  • Michael Buoncristiani, Wayne County
  • Alexander Chang, Pike County
  • Tyra Gilbert, Leslie County
  • Abby Hill, Madison County
  • Caroline Jenkins, Montgomery County
  • Jessica Lamb, Garrard County
  • Tyce Riddle, Pike County
  • Thomas Sanders, Greenup County
  • Savannah Saylor, Madison County
  • Alexia ShamaeiZadeh, Johnson County
  • Madison Tackett, Pike County
  • Xiaomei Zheng, Harlan County

The writing process that these students endure is an enriching experience that is significant to their development as not only students, but also professionals.

“There are few other activities that have such a high level of impact on students in terms of connecting educational material with lived experiences,” Vanderford said. “Writing the essays and becoming published authors are also significant career development outcomes for our students.”

“The ACTION Program has been the most beneficial experience of my college career,” Lamb said. “The program has helped me take full advantage of the many resources available on campus such as research, shadowing, publication opportunities and I am able to form relationships with the best mentors and other like-minded, high-achieving peers.”

The book is currently available for purchase through Butler Books, and will be available for purchase through other booksellers soon. All the proceeds from book sales will go to support the ACTION Program.

In addition to Vanderford, ACTION Program coordinator Chris Prichard serves as an editor of the second edition. Vanderford and Prichard will be giving away hundreds of copies to community members in Appalachian Kentucky, serving as a free and accessible educational tool in these communities.

ACTION is currently recruiting its next cohorts of undergraduate and high school students. Undergraduate applications for the ACTION Program are due Friday, March 25 by 5 p.m. and high school applications are due Friday, May 13, by 5 p.m. Eligible students can apply for the ACTION Program here.

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