NHS, Lombardi Tackle Minority Health Disparities

April 16, 2010

Between 2001 and 2005, according to American Cancer Society statistics, cancer death rates among African Americans were higher than in any other racial or ethnic group.

A growing initiative within the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center is taking aim at health disparities like this one and working to improve overall minority health.

Several representatives from Lombardi’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities—which is led by Lucile L. Adams-Campbell, Ph.D.—discussed those efforts April 13 at a School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS) event that was hosted by the school’s new Minority Health Initiative Group.

Guest speakers included Sherrie Flynt Wallington, Ph.D., assistant professor of oncology and program director; Mireille Bright-Gbebry, Ph.D., assistant professor of oncology and nutritionist; and Everett Dodson, community health educator.

The three discussed the office’s community-based efforts, ranging from nutrition and human papillomavirus education and research, to clinical trial access for minorities and policy review.

A key point that the guests stressed, one that informs all of their office’s activities, is doing research with—not on—communities.

“The community is so important in helping us to identify what the disparities are,” said Flynt Wallington. “In communicating and working with the community, we always express to them that we don’t just want to do research about you. We want to do research with you.”

The event, hosted during April’s minority health month, was organized by the Minority Health Initiative Group—a new student group within NHS that grew out of a discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day 2010.

The students have worked closely with NHS staff members Brian Floyd, assistant director of student academic affairs, and Andre Wright, assistant director of admissions and outreach.

“Our mission statement is to facilitate access and support for minority students in NHS,” said Michael Leavell (NHS’11), a health care management & policy major, during his welcome address. “The [group] is tasked with the responsibility of promoting the importance of optimal health to minorities through health education, training, research, and community outreach in an effort to reduce health disparities.”

Specifically, he said, the group will reach out to current and prospective minority students to increase the number of underrepresented students who wish to work within the health field, support retention of those students within the health fields, engage the community, and promote health in medically underserved communities.

The guest speakers from Lombardi encouraged the students in their activities and invited them to participate in the office’s projects.

“Look for opportunities about how you can bring your knowledge to our communities,” said Bright-Gbebry. “I always say, ‘Dream big. Don’t limit yourself.’”

Author: Bill Cessato