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NIH Awards Georgetown $6.1 Million for New Health Disparities Center

June 26, 2012 – The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded a five-year, $6.1 million grant to Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) to establish the Center of Excellence for Health Disparities in Our Nation’s Capital (CEHD). 

The aim of the new center, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is to eliminate or dramatically reduce health disparities in Washington, D.C., where chronic diseases disproportionately affect the largest minority group, African Americans.

Immediate Inroads

Dr. Chelsea Kidwell

Dr. Chelsea Kidwell

The CEHD plans to begin conducting critical health disparities research in breast cancer and stroke, because Washington has the highest rate of deaths in the country from the former disease, and stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the region.

“We know we can make immediate inroads toward reducing health disparities in breast cancer and stroke because of our previous work in these areas,” explains Lucile Adams-Campbell, associate dean for GUMC community health and outreach and co-principal investigator of the grant. “We have bridges in place, we have research-based, culturally appropriate evidence to guide our efforts and now we have NIH funding to help expand our delivery capabilities.” 

Other co-investigators on the grant are Dr. Chelsea Kidwell, director of GUMC’s Stroke Center, and Phyllis Magrab, director of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. 

Strengthening Collaborations

The three women are pioneers in their fields with extensive experience in research and practice with the underserved.

The CEHD anchors a broader Georgetown University-wide initiative that seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate health disparities.

The center is expected to expand and strengthen collaborations across campus and with other academic, government, nonprofit, faith-based and community partners to have maximum impact on such disparities.

Expediting Disparity Reduction

Phyllis Magrab

Phyllis Magrab

“One of the first goals is to build new, and strengthen existing, relationships between the scientific and lay communities so that we can expedite evidence-based ways of impacting health disparities,” says Dr. Howard J. Federoff, executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of GUMC’s School of Medicine.

The NIH grant also includes support for collaboration with Howard University, with which Georgetown already has an existing partnership – the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

The Georgetown-Howard collaboration was established in 2010 through a Clinical and Translational Science Award from NIH.

Increased Challenges

Adams-Campbell, also associate director for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, will lead the effort involving breast cancer research. 

She says understanding breast cancer risk in African Americans is becoming increasingly challenging with the existence of co-morbidities such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension.  

“With breast cancer, we know that a woman’s weight gain in her postmenopausal years is like adding fuel to the fire,” Adams-Campbell says. “Now that we know that, we need to act on that information.” 

Community-Based Office

Adams-Campbell recently opened a community-based office in Southeast Washington to directly engage minority and underserved populations.

An additional goal of the CEHD is to promote careers in minority health research by creating educational and training programs.

Training and education will include targeted mentorship to postdoctoral and junior faculty colleagues to help them advance their research interests.