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Oncology Professor Focuses Outreach and Research Toward Curbing Health Disparities

20081006 Lucile Adams-Campbell_0042

December 12, 2009 – Lucile Adams-Campbell spends much of her time focusing on community-based research and outreach to combat the high rates of diseases affecting underrepresented communities.

The oncology professor’s work has taken her around the world and back with a considerable amount of research done in African and Caribbean nations. Over the years she has looked at why people from particular ethnic groups and cultures are more prone to diseases such as hypertension, prostate cancer, diabetes, stroke, lupus and breast cancer.

“What we’ve found is that for people of color… Africans were just 10 years behind catching what [African Americans] already had here in the United States,” says Adams-Campbell, associate director for minority health and health disparities research at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “So, what we hope is that other countries will learn from our mistakes.”

Her current work with the Black Women’s Health Study seeks a better understanding of the causes of such illness in African American women and the determinants of good health.

“When you look at the death statistics for breast cancer in African American women and compare them to white women, the rates are much higher,” she says.

The rate of breast cancer deaths among African American women under 40 is 36 percent higher than white women with the same disease, according to the American Cancer Society. In older black women, cases of breast cancer decline, but high death rates persist.

Much of that can be attributed to the lack of access to screenings and early detection, but as an epidemiologist, Adams-Campbell says there are other factors to explore.

“You start looking at what makes the difference. Is it the same disease developing in young black women as white women? Is it biological? We’re looking at ways to answer these questions,” she explains.

Recognition for Her Research

Over the years, Adams-Campbell has authored or co-authored more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and received numerous honors and awards for her research and community outreach. She most recently was inducted into the National Academy of Science’s prestigious Institute of Medicine.

“It’s an honor being a part of the Institute of Medicine,” she says of her September induction into the academy. “There are so few people who get inducted, and I’m glad to be among so many well respected scholars in the field.”

The scholar admits the honor took her by surprise – but not her colleagues.

“Lucile’s election to this prestigious academy is a testament to her intellectual contributions to her field,” said Dr. Howard Federoff, executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine.

Lombardi director Louis Weiner points to another honor she received earlier this year – her induction into the D.C. Hall of Fame.

“Lucile’s leadership in the District of Columbia and expertise in conducting health disparities research and interventions are unparalleled,” he says.

A Commitment to the D.C. Community

Though Adams-Campbell has traveled the world for her research, she has made the nation’s capital the focal point for her current work. The professor has consistently reached out to the community in Washington, which has some of the highest cancer rates in the country.

She plans to open a staffed community-based office in Southeast D.C. in the near future in addition to the one on campus. One of the goals of the office will be to bring prevention-based clinical trials from the laboratory setting into the community. “It’s gratifying to be able to bring Georgetown’s expertise into the greater community,” says the Washington native.

“It’s very important that we have the community truly engaged and that they realize and recognize that Georgetown is really committed to making an effort to reach out to the community to address health disparities,” Adams-Campbell says.

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