Your Community – A Focus on Veterans

AJ MerriweatherArnold Merriweather (left) is one of the most active advocates in Jacksonville, Florida men’s health circles: Known to most of his friends as A.J., he fills his weeks with a wide variety of commitments related to prostate cancer awareness and other men’s health issues.

As a ten-year prostate cancer survivor, it was vitally important to A.J. to educate men and their family members about early detection, diagnosis and access to treatment, and he began his advocacy and engagement efforts by speaking up during outreach activities often promoted by prostate cancer researchers. These included collaborations with Dr. Folakemi Odedina at the University of Florida, which allowed healthcare professionals to “meet men where they are” with on-the-ground engagement activities.

As a military veteran, A.J. began to concentrate his prostate cancer advocacy and education outreach to those who served our country. Through the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN), he organizes events for veterans twice a month at the American Legion Post 197 which include PHEN webinars, education materials and snacks.

A.J.’s events, like those of other advocates, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, he and PHEN have adjusted their webinars to focus on the effects of COVID-19 on prostate cancer.

A.J. also finds time to be an active member of COMPPARE’s Minority Engagement Group (MEG). In this role he is committed to sharing information about the study during his community advocacy work.

“Being part of COMPPARE helps provide veterans the opportunity to connect with resources related to prostate diagnosis and treatment, “said A.J. “This is a way for me to help get the word out, and that’s all that matters.”

As a MEG member, A.J.’s insights aid awareness for COMPPARE’s mission and enrollment. He can often be found attending, as well as staging, outreach events with COMPPARE brochures in hand.

What’s next for A.J.? Through PHEN, he is working to develop a church outreach structure called The Ambassadors Program. The goal is to establish prostate cancer representatives at each African Methodist Episcopal (also known as AME) church. His hope is to build a network that expands prostate cancer engagement and education opportunities to African American men.

And knowing A.J., it will get done.