Office of Health Disparities Research

Addressing Health Disparities is Our Priority.

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6 days ago · David Williams PhD-Keynote for 2017 OHDR Retreat

As the Office of Health Disparities Research prepares for its 2017 Annual Retreat, word is spread-ing about the event’s Keynote speaker, Dr. David Williams. Dr. Williams, his illustrious career as a health disparities researcher, author, and educator, and his development of the “Everyday Discrimination Scale.” Dr. William’s August 22 Keynote Address kicks off two days of presentations, workshops, and networking for an enterprise-wide audience of providers, scientists, educators, and administrators focused on reducing health disparities and improving health equity. While the Retreat, which is open to all Mayo employees, is free of charge, registration is required.


Thu, Jul 27 9:33am · Mayo Health Disparities Researcher: Invited Speaker at Breast Density and Cancer Risk Workshop

Dr. Carmen Radecki Breitkopf was an invited lecturer at the 8th International Breast Density and Cancer Risk Assessment Workshop, in San Francisco, CA, June 7-9, 2017. The title of her talk was “Communicating Risk and Density Information to Wom-en.” The presentation addressed cancer risk communication, breast density notifica-tion as a form of risk communication, and described her ongoing NIMHD-funded clinical trial (NCT02910986) to evaluate different methods of communicating breast density information to Hispanic women, for whom breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. The workshop attracted over 100 individuals from around the world who are leading experts in breast cancer imaging and risk assessment modeling. Dr. Celine Vachon, co-investigator of the ongoing trial, served on the Steering Committee for the international workshop. Congratulations to Dr. Radecki Breitkopf!

Wed, Jul 12 2:13pm · Is It Fair to Expect Students From Minority Backgrounds to ‘Give Back’ in Their Careers?

Imagine you are a medical student and you’ve received financial aid based on your status as a member of a minority or low-income group. Should you be expected to pursue a career serving in underserved communities?

Not if society wants to tackle social inequity, according to a recent commentary published in the AMA Journal of Ethics by researchers from the University of Delaware, the University of Toronto and Mayo Clinic.

“Society flourishes when we allow its most talented to be free of our biasing expectations of where and how they should use their talents,” says co-author Jon Tilburt, M.D., a health disparities researcher and professor of biomedical ethics and medicine at Mayo Clinic. “We should challenge the status quo that assumes that talented minority clinicians owe more to society than any other clinicians.”

In the commentary, the authors untangle the expectations on a second-year medical student of Native and Latin American ethnicity. She is enthusiastic about applying for a competitive specialty program, but her fellow students assume she will put to use her cultural and language skills as a primary care provider in underserved communities.

Many assumptions — both conscious and unconscious — are at play, related to gender, race, and even the student’s receipt of a scholarship and federal financial aid, say the authors. And these assumptions create barriers at the personal, institutional and societal levels for students who are members of underrepresented minority groups.

“We shouldn’t hold minority clinicians to a higher standard of service just because they grew up in deprivation. We should address the fundamental drivers of inequities in society and then give individuals the latitude to use their gifts like any other student,” says Dr. Tilburt.

“Conversely, we should revisit and potentially bolster the citizenship expectations of all professionals to serve the common good regardless of their background and ethnicity, so that it becomes a common norm that serving in less economically or geographically desirable locations becomes part of the healthcare culture of services.”

Read the article: “Why It’s Unjust to Expect Location-Specific Language-Specific or Population-Specific Service From Students With Underrepresented Minority or Low-Income Backgrounds.”

Authors are:

  • Barret Michael, Ph.D., University of Delaware
  • Maria Athina (Tina) Martimianakis, Ph.D., University of Toronto
  • Jon Tilburt, M.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Frederic Hafferty, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic

— Kris Schanilec, Public Affairs

Fri, Mar 24 12:10pm · Health Disparities in Minneapolis’ Underserved Communities to Be Discussed

Join the Office of Health Disparities Research (OHDR) for a special research presentation by Southside Community Health Services (“Southside”), which provides medical and dental services to one of Minneapolis’ most underserved neighborhoods.

Founded in 1971 by Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Southside serves the Minneapolis south metro community by offering patient focused, friendly, high-quality and comprehensive medical care. Southside believes that, as a community clinic, it is important to know and serve its neighbors, and it emphasizes community outreach to provide free health education, screenings and information in trusted gathering places. Southside also partners with researchers to develop and implement studies and interventions aimed at improving community health and health equity. For example, Southside is a partner in FAITH! (Fostering African American Improvement in Total Health), a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular health intervention study.

Presenters include Southside Outreach personnel Clarence Jones (pictured, far left) and Monisha Washington (second from left).

Tuesday, March 28
Noon–1 p.m. CDT
Charlton 6-147 Conference Room
Mayo Clinic

Webcast available:

Audio: 866-365-4406 (passcode 2883946)
Video: Gotomeeting link

Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunches; beverages and dessert will be provided by the OHDR.

Thu, Mar 2 11:42am · Mayo Clinic Well Represented At Cancer Summit

The 2017 Minnesota Cancer Alliance Summit was held on February 1st with Mayo Clinic well represented. The event served as an annual gathering of Minnesota’s cancer researchers, care providers, and patient advocates, as well as the platform for unveiling the new Minnesota Cancer Plan 2025, a statewide framework for action in reducing cancer burdens. Both OHDR and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center were sponsors of the event and had promotional booths. Mayo staff, including Sumedha Penheiter, Ph.D. of OHDR, Jane Welter and Wendy Hanson of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, attended workshops on building tactics and grassroots support for implementing the new Cancer Plan objectives.


Dec 6, 2016 · Healthy Churches 2020: A Giant Step for Mayo Clinic HD-CBPR

A number of current and developing Mayo Clinic community-based, participatory health disparities research projects received a big boost in November, when two dozen PI’s, research personnel, and community faith leaders and volunteers from Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida attended Balm in Gilead, Inc.’s Healthy Churches 2020 annual conference. The focal point of Mayo Clinic’s attendance was to share research outcomes from clinic/faith-organization partnerships across all three sites with other nationwide faith-based health partnerships. Mayo Clinic, which also sponsored a Pavilion at the conference, used its platform to distribute educational materials and to give a presentation on childhood obesity (Drs. Christopher Pullins and Kenneth Poole, (AZ)). Additionally, Chara Chamie (AZ) and Monica Albertie (FL), OHDR Program Managers who spearheaded the community partnerships and PI research, also attended, helping health disparities researchers distribute a survey to conference participants. The PI’s plan to present the survey results at next year’s HC2020 conference and as the basis of a manuscript. The Pavilion, the educational materials, and the travel/lodging for all participants were jointly funded by the Office of Health Disparities and the CCaTS’s Office of Community Engaged Research. Participants re-port that the event, a forum for pastors and volunteers involved in health ministry, health fairs, kitchen ministries, and health education in faith setting to network and develop ideas for programs and interventions, was educational and engaging. Information from the event will support existing and planned research projects partnering Mayo Clinic with African American and Hispanic faith communities in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida.

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Dec 5, 2016 · OHDR Retreat Focuses on Closing Gaps for Underserved

Over 100 researchers, clinicians, educators and administrators from across Mayo Clinic, as well as outside community members, gathered in Rochester, Minnesota, for the Office of Heath Disparities Research (OHDR) Annual Retreat in October. The meeting was a platform to share science updates, learn about study support and other resources, delve into health disparities topics and collaborate on future research projects and publications.

Keynote speaker Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIHMD), gave the talk “NIMHD’s Research Agenda to Improve the Health of Racial and Ethnic Minorities.”

Dr. Perez-Stable, NIMHD, in discussion with Dr. Eddie Greene, Mayo Clinic

Dr. Pérez-Stable made several key points about the NIMHD’s agenda:

  • Minority health and health disparities research are two different spheres. Minority health involves the distinct needs of racial and ethnic minorities; while health disparities are differences that adversely affect populations based on actual health outcomes (for example, incidence, prevalence, or health-related quality of life). Health disparities research aims to define the mechanisms behind health disparities and develop interventions. This work spans not just racial and ethnic minorities, but also low income people, women, underserved rural residents, and other populations subject to discrimination.
  • The mechanisms that lead to health disparities are complex and fall into the broad domains of biology, behavior, physical environment, sociocultural environment, and the health care system. For example, sociocultural stressors like food insecurity, racism or familial dysfunction can contribute to health disparities, as can biological factors such as gene variants or metabolic differences.
  • Biomedical workforce diversity is a priority for the NIMHD and “an urgent societal issue,” said Dr. Pérez-Stable. “We live in a society where 40 percent of the population is going to identify as one of [the] minority groups….Yet only about 5 percent of NIH grants submitted or awarded are going to African-Americans or Latinos.” African-American investigators are half as likely as white investigators to resubmit a scored grant.
  • Inclusion of diverse participants in research studies is also critical. “It’s not just being a good investigator….It’s actually good science,” said Dr. Pérez-Stable. “There are things we’re not going to find out if we don’t have a diverse sample.” He cited a recently published study that found a genetic variance common in African-Americans was misclassified as a risk factor for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, because African-Americans were not included in the control group. As a result, for over a decade, patients and physicians made care decisions based on faulty information on their risk of developing this serious heart condition.
  • The NIH needs to improve accountability in grant applications and recognition of investigators who do address minority inclusion. Too often, inclusion is “just a checkbox” in the review process, said Dr. Pérez-Stable.
  • Recruiting minorities is hard, and usually takes added resources and skills. Barriers exist, such as lack of trust, but the research community needs to end the myth that these barriers are insurmountable. “We have to be at the table,” said Dr. Pérez-Stable. “We have to be part of it….Otherwise, you’re on the menu.”

Reports on health disparities research at Mayo Clinic

Dr. Gerardo Colon-Otero and Dr. Tamara Huff

In other OHDR Annual Retreat presentations:

  • OHDR pilot project awardees presented results in research areas such as Somali tobacco use, childhood obesity disparities, positive health changes in rural African-American women, cognitive research in African-Americans, joint pain in obese populations, and wellness behavior in Alaska health aides.
  • Leaders from diversity offices provided updates on addressing health disparities “across the shields.” Sharonne Hayes, M.D., Office of Diversity and Inclusion, discussed the success of Mayo’s workplace climate survey and stated that some results showed that employees value teamwork and support their teammates. John Knudsen, M.D., Office of Health Equity and Inclusion, stressed the importance of cultural competence training for all Mayo employees. Barbara Jordan, Office for Diversity, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, elaborated on the charge to advance the diversity of learners and their experiences in the biomedical workforce.
  • Linda Larkey, Ph.D., Arizona State University, discussed strategies to overcome the multifactorial challenges to recruiting minorities in research studies.
  • Toni Mangskau, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, reported on successes using a recruitment process called “CEO” (Call, Educate, Opportunity) for clinical trials.
  • Michelle van Ryn, Ph.D., Health Sciences Research, discussed unconscious bias and discrimination in health care and what can be done about them. She emphasized that a commitment to an inclusive environment in the workplace maximizes employee contributions and creates a better health care setting for all patients.
  • Jon Tilburt, M.D., General Internal Medicine, and Wesley Petersen, Ph.D., Office of Health Disparities Research, discussed tips for surviving and thriving in a competitive research environment.

— Kris Schanilec

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