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The Couple that Studies Medicine Together, Stays Together

When it comes to medicine and science, the honeymoon for Gregory and Kandis Adams of Atlanta, Georgia has just begun.

Three years and eight months ago, they met while visiting college campuses for graduate programs that might lead them to medical school. Gregory's opening line to Kandis was, "Hey, we have the very same backpack." Whether those were the decisive words that swayed Kandis will never be known for sure, but eight months later, they were married.

They are currently both finishing master's degrees in Biomedical Research at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and are passionate about the science of cancer health disparities. They each have 3.5 grade point averages and are applying to medical schools. Before they were married it was agreed: "Even if we end up marrying someone else, we will both start a medical practice together," Gregory said.

Their first and foremost rule: never compete against each other, but compete to make one another better. "We will work together to reach the same goal," said Kandis. "And working together has made learning science a whole lot easier."

In October, Gregory and Kandis were in Miami, Florida for the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Science of Cancer Health Disparities Conference. As a recipient of a NCI/CRCHD sponsored AACR Minority Scholar in Cancer Research Award, Gregory had the opportunity to present a poster on epithelial ovarian carcinoma and some of the work he has done with CRCHD grantee, Dr. Felix O. Aikhionbare. This award enhances the education and training of minority researchers, and provides support for participation of early-career, meritorious minority scientists at the AACR Annual Meeting.

AACR provides a forum to connect trainees to funding opportunities, to showcase their science, and to increase knowledge of cancer health disparities. Gregory and Kandis have attended several health disparity conferences together. Gregory has recently co-authored a scientific paper on mitochondrial DNA analysis in colorectal adenomas.

Gregory's current research, with Dr. Aikhionbare, funded by NCI/CRCHD, is focused on the role of the mitochondrial genome alterations as modifier 'genes' in the early and progressive stages, and dissecting the molecular basis of intra-tumor heterogeneity in colorectal adenomas. It may be possible to screen colon cancer patients even earlier than age 50 (with or without colonoscopy), which is many times performed in a hospital. Colonoscopy is the endoscopic examination of the colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. A number of Black men have been shown in numerous studies to avoid this colonoscopic procedure because of fear, pain or embarrassment.

Kandis is studying airplane jet lag not only on how it affects the circadian rhythm but also how it affects the body's immune system, during an inflammatory state. Any seasoned air traveler knows they not only battle extreme tiredness up to a week afterward, but many times come down with a cold. While the cold could be initiated by being in close quarters with other passengers or being in another country with unfamiliar viruses, it may also be caused by a down immune system and inflammatory response caused by a variety of reasons that Kandis hopes to delineate. She is currently working with mouse models and found a passenger is more prone to get jet lag going from West to East rather than East to West.

Both Kandis and Gregory have shadowed doctors both in Atlanta and elsewhere. Kandis spent the summer of 2005 at the Yale University Medical School Summer Medical Education Program. She also became a NASA Scholar in 2010 . Gregory shadowed a physician from Johns Hopkins and worked as a volunteer at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution Bayview Hospital in 2007.

"Gregory and Kandis have the desire to help others and discipline to treat the poor," said Gregory's uncle, Willie Adams, PA. "They would make good physicians for minority and underserved communities, which is what they would like to do."

When they aren't preparing for medical school, Gregory and Kandis spend time giving back to the community. They work at the Ben Carson Science Academy in Atlanta to get young minority students better acquainted with science and mathematics. They established a Youth Mentoring program, an organization called D.R.R.L.L. (Discipline Respect Responsibility Leadership, and Love). Kandis is a youth Sunday school secretary and coordinator, and Gregory like his father is an ordained Minister of the True Church of God in Christ, Inc. of the Apostles' Doctrine and Faith.

They have both volunteered for Project3Sixty, Inc, helping to establish a rehabilitation center for the homeless. In 2008, the couple went on a health care adventure where they moved to Antigua, studied healthcare techniques, and gained an edge on the experience of residing in a poverty stricken and healthcare lacking country.

Updated: 12/07/10