NIH grant to help Med School
create health disparities center
The School of Medicine is the only academic institution in Pennsylvania and one of only 11 nationwide to be awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities to support the development of a full-scale health disparities research, community outreach and training program aimed at eliminating health disparities in racial and ethnic minority and medically underserved communities.
Work under the $1,049,044 grant will be directed by Raul DeLa Cadena, assistant dean, associate professor and director of recruitment and retention at the School of Medicine, and falls under the umbrella of the University’s Center for Minority Health Studies (community outreach, minority health and health disparities education cores), which was established this summer, and the department of physiology (research and training cores), where DeLa Cadena has his research laboratories.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, nearly one in two Americans will be a person of color. In Philadelphia, 43 percent of the population is black and 8.5 percent Hispanic or Latino. Thirteen separate census tracts are designated as medically underserved. Lower North Philadelphia, where Temple is located, is noted as being both low-income and underserved by primary-care physicians.
“While the U.S. becomes increasingly diverse, ethnic and racial minority groups are experiencing poorer overall health, and lower levels of access to health care,” DeLa Cadena said.
DeLa Cadena considers education the starting point for the entire initiative. One of the initiative’s primary goals is to increase the proportion of underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in the health research ranks of industry, government and academia and to thereby shift the long-term national research agenda to encompass more minority-health issues.
“By exposing a wide array of Temple University undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students to the history, the facts and the resulting challenges of health disparities, we will build the broad base of support for the hard work that needs to occur in coming decades,” DeLa Cadena said.
Another component — new research in health disparities — will focus specifically on the role of growth factors (proteins involved in the new formation of vessels) in prostate cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. These two pilot studies join a body of existing health disparities research projects at Temple in areas including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Jack Mydlo, professor and chief of urology, will lead the study on prostate cancer.
“Black men have a higher incidence and severity of prostate cancer compared to whites, in part because this cancer is being diagnosed at later stages, which may in turn be related to a disproportionate lack of treatment or a tendency toward more conservative treatment,” Mydlo said. “Differences in underlying biology are also possible factors.”
Audrey Uknis, associate professor of medicine, will lead the study on rheumatoid arthritis.
“Data from African-American patients has been significantly underrepresented in the ongoing search for the origin of rheumatoid arthritis,” Uknis said. “Such an oversight reduces the potential usefulness of new scientific discoveries and increases the potential for future racial disparities in our treatment of the disease.”
Another key component — community outreach — will build on already-established programs at Temple. In one, Temple healthcare professionals have implemented a K-12 educational program within several North Philadelphia schools designed to guide more minority students into careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and other health professions. The new grant will help expand and sustain this program.
Another community outreach goal is strengthening Temple’s ability to serve as a minority-health resource for the community by increasing the dissemination of culturally sensitive health information and including more minority community members in health research or intervention projects.
— Eryn Jelesiewicz