University/Institution: Elizabeth City State University
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Project Name: Mammography Disparities in Elderly African American Women
Research Interests: Cancer Screening Disparities
Mentor: Dr. Sally W. Vernon
When I visited my grandmother growing up in San Antonio, Texas, I would go in her medicine cabinet and mix up medicines to see what would happen; that's when I decided to become a pharmacist. Arriving at Howard University, the Dean of the Pharmacy School announced, "If you do not want your own pharmacy, you are in the wrong place." I smiled and thought, "I'm in the right place." I was the only black female pharmacy owner in San Antonio for 5 years before returning to school after learning about babies born anencephalic on the Texas-Mexico border. That is why I studied environmental science and policy at Georgia Tech and George Mason University.
I learned that minority populations were impacted disproportionately by toxic pollution that may be a factor in cancer prevalence. I worked with minority communities in the environmental justice movement to help solve these problems but realized that to address cancer, socio-economic and behavioral changes would have to occur first, thus my focus on the social and environmental determinants of cancer disparities. I have also learned that my strengths are bringing people together and building capacity in others. As Dean of the School of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Elizabeth City State University, an HBCU, I manage six departments and serve as Chief Research Officer. Northeast NC is poor, rural, and black with the highest rates of cancer incidence and mortality in the state. In April, we kicked off the NE NC Initiative to Address Health Disparities through a faith-based community approach.
My goal is to improve the health of residents and reduce cancer screening disparities through our research and outreach efforts.