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NIH awards $6.1 million grant to GUMC to establish Center of Excellence for Health Disparities

WASHINGTON -- The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a $6.1 million grant over the next five years to Georgetown University Medical Center to establish the Center of Excellence for Health Disparities in Our Nation's Capital (CEHD). The vision of the Center of Excellence is to eliminate or dramatically reduce health disparities with a particular focus on minority populations in Washington, D.C.

Part of Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), the CEHD anchors a broader Georgetown University initiative that seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate health disparities by convening and leveraging the breadth of academic disciplines from across its campuses. Powered by this unified effort and Georgetown's commitment to social justice, the CEHD will expand and strengthen collaborations with other academic, government, nonprofit, faith-based and community partners to have maximum impact on disparities.

"The Center of Excellence requires a fully dedicated and engaged University community to achieve meaningful gains toward reducing health disparities," says Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine at GUMC. "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 -- particularly those affecting African Americans in the District."

The African American population is the largest minority population within the District of Columbia and is disproportionately affected by chronic diseases. As such, the CEHD will conduct critical health disparities research in breast cancer and stroke. Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of breast cancer deaths in the country, and stroke is the 4th leading cause of death.

"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, Ph.D. associate dean for community health and outreach for GUMC, 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."

Adams-Campbell is also associate director for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of GUMC.

Other co-investigators on the grant include Chelsea Kidwell, M.D., director of the Stroke Center at GUMC and Phyllis Magrab, Ph.D., director of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. Adams-Campbell, Kidwell and Magrab are pioneers in the medical field all with extensive experience in research and practice with the underserved. The grant also includes support for collaboration with Howard University, which has an historic commitment to minority populations. Georgetown and Howard have an existing partnership -- the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which was established in 2010 through a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

"The mission of the Center of Excellence is to capitalize on current and future knowledge gained from ongoing research and translate it to actionable practice in the community practice that truly makes a difference," says Magrab. "But our work cannot and will not end there. We need to influence policies at the local and national level that best serve the underserved."

"We hear a lot about barriers to better care, and one of those barriers is a lack of communication between the medical community and the real world," explains Kidwell. "For example, we know African Americans are at a higher risk of having strokes and have worse outcomes. While the reasons for both issues vary, we know how to reduce the risk and we have some understanding about how to ensure better outcomes. Our challenge is take this information across the bridge and into the community where it can have a major impact."

Adams-Campbell will lead the research effort involving breast cancer. 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."

Adams-Campbell's recently opened community-based office is positioned to address this challenge with on-site nutritionists, exercise physiologists and exercise physiology and "exergaming" labs. All are available in the Southeast Washington, DC location 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. A significant focus will also include embedding cultural and linguistic competence in its program goals.


Contact: Karen Mallet
Georgetown University Medical Center

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