Office of Health Disparities Research

Addressing Health Disparities is Our Priority.

The Office of Health Disparities Research supports meaningful research to identify and address health disparities and to help ensure Mayo Clinic patients reflect the diversity of our communities.


Tue, Sep 13

OHDR 2016 Retreat

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter


You are cordially invited to join us for the

Office of Health Disparities Research 2016 Annual Retreat

The OHDR Annual Retreat is a gathering of Mayo Clinic researchers, clinicians, educators, administrators, and leaders from across the institution and from a variety of disciplines, to share knowledge, germinate new ideas, network with one another, discuss health disparities research priorities, and develop working health disparities research collaborations.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Informal Welcome & Networking Social on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 (5:00pm-8:00pm)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Rochester, Minnesota




Keynote Speaker

Eliseo Perez-Stable, M.D.
Director of the NIH's National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
NIMHD LogoPerez-StablePhoto-standing


          Please RSVP for all three events on or before Friday, September 23, 2016.

RSVP by email (preferred) to:  or to
RSVP by phone to:  507-266-0706 (Sumedha Penheiter, Ph.D.) or to 507-538-7862 (Jerrie Hayes)

PLEASE NOTE Your Retreat RSVP is NOT a hotel room reservation!  Hotel Details below.

Unfortunately, OHDR's Room Block at the Retreat Hotel (DoublTree by Hilton Hotel) has sold out.

We suggest attendees stay at one of the two closest alternate hotels:

Hilton Garden Inn - Rochester Downtown
This hotel is on the same street as the DoubleTree, 1/2 block south.
Holiday Inn - Rochester Downtown
This hotel is on the same street as the DoubleTree, 1/2 block south, across the street from the Hilton Garden Inn.

Please make your reservations as early as possible.  October is an extremely busy time in Rochester!

Mayo Arizona and Florida Attendees should check with their Departments concerning travel expense reiumbursement.

2015 Retreat Summary

2016 Retreat Flyer


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Tags: events, News, Perez-Stable, retreat, top news

Fri, Jun 3

Mayo Clinic to Be Home of National Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program Biobank

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Mayo Clinic will be awarded $142 million in funding over five years by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as the national Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program biobank. The biobank will hold a research repository of biologic samples, known as biospecimens, for this longitudinal program that aims to enroll 1 million or more U.S. participants to better understand individual differences that contribute to health and disease to advance precision medicine.

Read the Mayo Clinic news release.

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Tags: Health Disparities, mayo clinic, PMI Cohort Program, precision medicine, News

Wed, May 11

Somali Tobacco Outreach and Research Initiative

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Researchers study tobacco use in Somali community where 36 percent smoke cigarettes.

STORI Community event 2In a pilot project funded by the Office of Health Disparities Research, Arizona researchers have gathered baseline data on tobacco use in the Somali refugee community, with the ultimate goal of reducing tobacco-related health disparities.

A team led by Scott Leischow, Ph.D., has partnered with the Somali American United Council of Arizona (SAUC) to collect survey and focus group data from 200 Somali refugees on:

  • Tobacco use behaviors, perceptions and barriers to cessation
  • Health literacy, and health care access and use
  • Social networks for accessing information about health and tobacco use

Initial results show that 36 percent of the Somali people surveyed smoke cigarettes, compared with 17 percent of the general U.S. population. While 81 percent of Somali participants say they are ready to quit or interested in quitting, only 15 percent have sought help from a health care provider.

Researcher Janet Okamoto, Ph.D., reports that the data has also yielded information that will help shape future interventions to reduce smoking.

Janet Okamoto

Janet Okamoto, Ph.D.

For example, nearly half of participants report difficulty in understanding others because of language. And when health clinics have interpreters available, often Somali refugees do not know how to successfully access this help.

Only 38 percent of those surveyed say they have someone they can go to for advice about a health issue. But those who do not have such relationships tend to access the health care system more.

“We think this means those with less social support are forced to rely more on the system to get health information and advice,” says Dr. Okamoto. “What we don’t know yet, is whether people with more supportive health advice networks are not seeking information from health providers because the information they receive from their networks is sufficient or if there is something else going on.”

The research team will be sharing its results with the Somali refugee community for input on the next steps toward developing community-based interventions that help prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The project, entitled “Somali Tobacco Outreach & Research Initiative (STORI),” also sets the stage for future cross-Mayo collaboration to compare tobacco use interventions in different Somali communities, according to Okamoto.

“African refugee populations are already at high risk for disparate health outcomes, such as mental health problems due to past traumatic experiences. You add smoking on top of existing health conditions, and it’s a huge issue,” she says.

Read more about Mayo’s collaboration with the Somali community in Arizona: “Partnering with the Somali Community Through Research” by Research Program Coordinator Farhia Omar.

STORI research team with members from the SAUC and Mayo Clinic

STORI research team with members from the SAUC and Mayo Clinic

Mayo Researchers Who Address Health Disparities in Somali Populations

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Tags: Arizona news, Janet M Okamoto PhD, News, Scott Leischow PhD, Somali, tobacco control

Tue, Apr 19

Researchers Partner with Navajo Nation on Smoke-Free Policies

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Since the 1970s, exposure to secondhand smoke has decreased dramatically in the U.S. with implementation of smoke-free policies in many states and communities. However, these protections do not apply on tribal lands, where secondhand smoke continues to pose a health risk in indoor environments like workplaces and casinos.

Scott Leischow, Ph.D.Mayo researcher Scott Leischow, Ph.D., Hematology/Oncology/Health Sciences Research, is the principal investigator of a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute State and Community Tobacco Control initiative to better understand how a Navajo coalition is working to foster smoke-free policies. Dr. Leischow leads Mayo’s Office of Health Disparities Research (OHDR) efforts in Arizona.

In the study Networks Among Tribal Organizations for Clean Air Policies, researchers are examining social networks in Navajo Nation and how information is shared on the risks of secondhand commercial tobacco smoke, its impact on health, and related tribal policies.

“A unique and important factor in addressing exposure to commercial tobacco smoke is that natural tobacco is a sacred and fundamental part of Navajo culture,” says Dr. Leischow. “Yet commercial tobacco has found its way into Navajo society.”

Through interviews and network analysis, the research team has found that the majority of Navajo people surveyed prefer to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, but many are concerned that banning smoking in casinos could have a negative economic impact.

The researchers have been sharing such findings broadly with Navajo people. For example, they have developed a series of educational vignettes featuring video interviews with Navajo traditional healers on the influence of commercial tobacco.

“Our research is designed to collect and share information with the Navajo people on the nature and risks of commercial secondhand tobacco smoke, and to better understand how that information is used to foster policy,” says Dr. Leischow. “It’s up to the Navajo people themselves to determine if they want to end that exposure.”

The research team, which includes the Black Hills Center for American Indian Health and the University of Arizona, uses a community-based participatory research approach to ensure that Navajo engagement and leadership are central to the project.

Learn more about the Networks Among Tribal Organizations for Clean Air Policies study.

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Tags: Arizona news, Health Disparities, mayo clinic, Native American, Navajo Nation, News, Scott Leischow PhD, secondhand smoke, smoke-free policy, tobacco control, top news

Mon, Apr 4

OHDR-Funded Researcher Named 2016 Kern Scholar

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Wilson_Michael_E_14JUMichael Wilson, M.D., PI of the OHDR 2016 Pilot Awarded project “Disparities in Decision Making and Medical Care at the End of Life in the Intensive Care Unit: A Pilot Study,” has been named one of four Mayo Clinic 2016 Kern Scholars. The Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery’s Scholars Program trains clinicians to use tools from applied sciences, such as epidemiology, statistics, economics, and sociology, to rigorously assess and improve patient-centered outcomes and health care delivery systems. Dr. Wilson, whose research focus is end-of-life decision making in the ICU and who will begin his program in July, is mentored by health disparities researchers Jon Tilburt, M.D., Victor Montori, M.D., and Ognjen Gajic, M.D. The three other Kern Scholars are W. Oliver Tobin, M.B., B.Ch., BOA, Ph.D. (Neurology), Elizabeth Lorenz, M.D. (Nephrology and Hypertension), and Rahma Warsame, M.D. (Hematology and Oncology).  Congratulations, to all!

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Tags: grants, Health Disparities, Kern, News, pilot award, research, top news

Wed, Mar 23

Researchers Target Disparities in Childhood Obesity

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter


Richard White, M.D., Community Internal Medicine, wants to improve the odds for inner-city adolescents in Jacksonville, Florida, to live long and healthy lives.

“Some reports have suggested this may be the first generation that doesn’t necessarily outlive their parents," says Dr. White. "That’s a very concerning and provoking thought.”

In research funded by the Mayo Clinic Office of Health Disparities Research, Dr. White’s team recruited 20 pairs of adolescents and their adult caregivers in Health Zones 1 and 6 — primarily African-American neighborhoods that are among the poorest in Jacksonville.

In the study, Dr. White’s team determined that more than half of the adolescents were obese or severely obese, and their adult caregivers also had high obesity rates. The team found that both groups responded better to positive messages about healthy choices than to negative messages that highlight barriers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: African-American, childhood obesity, Health Disparities, mayo clinic, Richard O White MD, Florida news, News

Tue, Mar 1

NIH Commits $3.1M Grant to Support Groundbreaking Research to Prevent Diabetes in Latino Youth

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

A transdisciplinary team of Arizona researchers, including Gabriel Shaibi, Ph.D. (Mayo affiliate researcher in Health Science Research and member of the OHDR-Arizona Internal Advisory Team), who will serve as principal investigator, has been awarded a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to test a culturally grounded lifestyle intervention program for reducing diabetes risk in obese Latino adolescents with prediabetes. The new grant, "Preventing Diabetes in Latino Youth," is a collaboration between Arizona State University, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Valley of the Sun YMCA, the Family Wellness Program of St. Vincent de Paul Medical and Dental Clinic, and the University of Washington.  Learn more.


Gabriel Shaibi, Ph.D.

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Tags: Arizona news, Diabetes, Latino, News, obesity, Shaibi, top news

Mon, Feb 22

HD Researcher Selected for Leadership Institute

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

The Society of Behavioral Medicine has chosen 24 mid-career scientists from around the nation for its inaugural year-long Leadership Institute. Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, Ph.D., a federally funded health disparities researcher and Mayo Clinic associate professor of health services research, completed the highly competitive application process and has been selected as one of the Institute's first members. The program, which focuses on leadership development through increased self-awareness and skills development, provides participants will a full year of mentoring and one-on-one coaching, as well as an immersive, two-day workshop consecutive with the Society of Behavioral Medicine's Annual Meeting. The Office of Health Disparities Research congratulates Dr. Radecki Breitkopf on this impressive accomplishment.

Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, Ph.D.

Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, Ph.D.

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Tags: awards, leadership, News, radecki breitkopf, SBM, top news

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