2020 Fellows' Symposium Focused on Research in Underrepresented Populations
, by DCEG Staff
The twelfth annual DCEG Fellows’ Symposium was held virtually on July 2, 2020. The theme for this year was “Mine the Gap: Research in Underrepresented Populations;” participants explored the challenges in health disparities among underrepresented populations and the role of research in closing the gap. A distinguished expert panel of scientists and thought leaders facilitated the discussion, including Meredith Shiels, Ph.D., tenure-track investigator in the Infection and Immunoepidemiology Branch; Dr. Otis Brawley, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University; Dr. Lorraine Dean, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Dr. Rick Kittles, Professor, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and Founding Director for Cancer Health Equities; and DCEG Director Stephen J. Chanock, M.D. Over 60 DCEG fellows attended the event.
The organizing committee for the symposium included Katelyn Connelly, Ph.D., Sarah Jackson, Ph.D., Rebecca Landy, Ph.D., Jim Mai, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and André Rose, M.D., Ph.D. The DCEG Office of Education, including Jackie Lavigne, Ph.D., M.P.H., Diane Wigfield, and Cara Murray supported and advised the organizing committee.
Dr. Shiels gave the opening talk titled, “Highlighting health disparities with descriptive epidemiology.” She discussed the importance of descriptive studies in identifying underrepresented groups at high risk of disease and death, including examples from her recent descriptive studies on underrepresented populations in collaboration with Diana Withrow, Ph.D. and Dr. Jackson.
Dr. Brawley discussed the factors that contribute to health and healthcare disparities as well as the paradigm shifts needed to move from describing the disparities to implementing changes in practice.
Dr. Dean spoke of the social inequities that drive health disparities and provided several approaches to improve cancer health equity research in underrepresented populations.
Dr. Kittles presented “The use of genetic ancestry to understand health disparities.” He discussed how the use of self-identified race and ethnicity may not necessarily be a good proxy for genetic background in recently admixed populations like African Americans and Hispanics. He encouraged the development of study designs that recognize the influence of socioeconomic status, racism, genetic ancestry, and their interactions, on health disparities.
Following the talks, Dr. Chanock joined the speakers and fellows in a discussion of crucial conversations on how race, privilege and social injustice facilitate and sustain health inequality within underserved and underrepresented communities.
“The Symposium challenged us to shift the paradigm from investigating research questions to implementing direct change that may eradicate health inequalities,” said Dr. Rose.