Office of Health Disparities Research

Addressing Health Disparities is Our Priority.

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3 days ago · Mayo Clinic Well Represented at 2018 AACR Science of Health Disparities Conference

The 11th AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved was held November 2nd-5th in New Orleans.  OHDR Pilot Awardee Lewis Roberts, MB, ChB, PhD, chaired an Education Session entitled Progress in Liver Cancer-From From Screening to Survivorship, with Chee-Chee Stucky, MD, serving on that panel presenting Surgical Resection in Liver and Biliary Cancers.   Native American Research Outreach program director Wesley Petersen, PhD, presented his poster, Impact of a Multi-Theory Community-Based Intervention to Increase Mammographic Screening in a Midwest American Indian Tribe.  Finally, OHDR-funded early career investigator Narjust Duma, MD, presented two posters:  the first, Sex Differences In Tolerability and Response to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients, and the second,  Assessing Vitamin D and Mammographic Breast Density in a Population of Alaskan Native Women, for which Dr. Duma was selected to receive the AACR Scholar-in-Training Award, supported by the NCI-Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities.


3 days ago · Sex and Gender in Alzheimer's Disease--Does it Matter?

In a recently published article, Mayo clinician researcher Michelle Mielke, PhD, discusses issues surrounding the benefits and drawbacks of studying sex and gender differences in the etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes of Alzheimer’s Disease at all levels, including basic science studies, clinical research, and clinical trials.  She and her co-authors take on the long-standing question of whether the modest understandings gained from studying sex differences in the disease, where, in the U.S., the incidence of AD dementia does not significantly differ between men and women, outweigh the research burdens of doubling the participant pool, lengthening the time of studies, and increasing costs.  ARTICLE


Fri, Nov 9 4:33pm · Pediatric Cancer Researcher Awarded $1.1M Quantum Grant

Hyundai Hope on Wheels recently awarded Richard Vile, PhD, a $1.1M Quantum Grant, funds specifically awarded to support research on pediatric cancers with low survival rates.  Dr. Vile and his research team, who develop experimental cancer therapies based on stimulating antitumor immune responses, will use the grant to focus on new treatments for aggressive pediatric brain tumors, particularly tumors of the brainstem, which currently have a dismal prognosis because their anatomical location is an area susceptible to toxicities associated with reactions of tumors to treatment.  MORE INFORMATION


Fri, Nov 9 4:20pm · Mayo Clinic Team Bridging Basic and Clinical Research to Improve Women's Health Awarded $6.1 Million

The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) have awarded Mayo Clinic a $6.2 million grant to fund a Specialized Center of Research Excellence (SCORE) on sex differences. The overarching theme of the project, entitled Sex-Specific Effects of Endocrine Disruption on Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease, will be to investigate how abrupt loss of ovarian hormones, caused by bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO) prior to natural menopause, affects overall aging, physical and cognitive function, and risk for AD pathophysiology. Approximately one-in-eight women have their ovaries removed before reaching natural menopause.  Given the large number of aging women with a history of premenopausal BSO, there is an urgent need to understand the long-term physical and cognitive outcomes of the procedure in order to empower women considering prophylactic bilateral oophorectomy in the future to make more informed decisions. Additionally, a more complete understanding of the biological mechanisms that contribute to the harmful outcomes is essential for finding ways to mitigate or prevent them.  The SCORE will be led by PI’s Michelle M. Mielke, PhD, and Virginia M. Miller, PhD.

SCORE grants are designed to promote interdisciplinary approaches to advance translational research on sex differences; to earn these competitive awards, institutions must develop a research agenda bridging basic and clinical research underlying a health issue pertinent to improving the health of women. Centers of Excellence also serve as vital hubs for education and dissemination of innovative sex-based and informed translational research methods and best practices.  They also provide leadership in the development and promotion of standards and policies for the consideration of sex differences in biomedical research.  The Office of Health Disparities Research’s collaboration with the Office of Women’s Health was received positively by the grant reviewers, and assisted in funding of the grant.  The Mayo Clinic SCORE will be comprised of three cores that will support the SCORE research projects and a career development program, and include an Administrative Core (led by Drs. Mielke and Miller), a Career Enhancement Core, (led by Dr. Miller), and a Research Support Core-Clinical Core (led by Ekta Kapoor, MBBS), as well as three research projects:

Project 1:  Effects of Bilateral Oophorectomy on Physical and Cognitive Aging.  This project will assess the effects of premenopausal BSO on accelerated aging, as measured by declines in physical and cognitive function and plasma levels of senescence and other biomarkers of accelerated aging. Leaders: Michelle M. Mielke, PhD and Walter A. Rocca, MD.

Project 2: Bilateral Oophorectomy on Imaging Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s and Cerebrovascular Diseases. This project will assess the effects of premenopausal BSO on neuroimaging measures of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular pathology, and determine whether APOE ε4 modifies these effects.  Leader: Kejal Kantarci, M.D.

Effects of Ovariectomy on the Biology of Physical and Cognitive Aging in Mice. A mechanistic complement to the human projects, this project will determine the effects of ovariectomy (OVX) in Project 3: mice on cellular senescence and will measure physical and cognitive function. The project will also determine the temporal sequence and tissue-specific effects of estrogen replacement therapy on cellular senescence. Leader: Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D. 

OHDR congratulates Drs. Mielke, Miller, and all the SCORE researchers on this exciting sex differences research opportunity!

Fri, Nov 2 8:03am · Beyond Ancestry: The Production and Consumption of Genetic Knowledge

The Office of Health Disparities Research and the Native American Interest Group welcome Dr. Jessica Blanchard, a Research Scientist at the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Applied Social Research and the Center for the Ethics of Indigenous Genomic Research.  Her research focuses broadly on the reduction of health disparities in American Indian/Alaska Native and other underrepresented communities, with particular focus on issues related to cancer, ethical and social implications of genomic research, and building community partnerships and capacity in health research.

Date: Tuesday November 13, 2018
Time: 12:00 pm-1:00 pm
Location: Baldwin 01-507

RSVP To Wes Petersen by
11/9/18 via:
Phone: 507-266-2204

**Box lunches will be available for those attending in Rochester.
This Event is Open to the Public


Connection information:

Call-in information: Number: 866-365-4406 Code: 2844575

Blackboard Connection:

**Use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox if possible

Fri, Oct 26 3:28pm · NCI Awards $3.1M for Development of Breast Cancer Risk Model

A team of Mayo researchers, led by Amy Degnim, MD, a breast surgeon in Rochester, and Mark Sherman, MD, an epidemiologist and laboratory medicine and pathology researcher in Jacksonville, has received a $3.1 M grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a breast cancer prediction model to help guide clinical care for women whose breast biopsies show benign breast disease (BBD), noncancerous changes in the breast that may—or may not—go on to develop into breast cancer.  Mayo Clinic published the first risk report for these women more than 20 years ago, categorizing patients with BBD as high, medium, or low risk for developing breast cancer.  But advances in screening techniques that catch more details in breast changes, new information about the relevance of breast tissue characteristics such as density, the development of big data and machine learning techniques to conduct risk assessment and prediction, and the ready availability of molecular biomarker and cell genetics analysis, all of which have occurred over the past two decades, will contribute to a new risk model that incorporates a vastly wider array of risk factors.  Additionally, the new model will combine information from 7,000 patients at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, with that of an established cohort of 4,000 African-American women established by the Karmanos Cancer Institute, to provide a fuller understanding of ethnoracial breast cancer risk factors.  From Advancing the Science


Fri, Oct 19 2:39pm · Mayo Clinic, Arizona Celebrating a Valued Collaboration

Mayo Clinic, Arizona Campus is proud to share a milestone 10-year anniversary with its valued partner, Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC). The collaboration, initiated in 2006 by Dr. Tom Fitch during his tenure as chair of the division of Hematology and Medical Oncology, now involves a team of five Mayo oncologists (Donald Northfelt, Harshita Paripati, Mahesh Seetharam, Parminder Singh, Daniel Ahn). The recently renewed contract with the Indian Health Service provides a Mayo hematologist/oncologist on-site at PIMC every Wednesday throughout the year, serving as staff physician in the “Oncology Center of Excellence” at PIMC and seeing 100— 200 tribal members annually with new diagnoses of cancer or blood disorders.

The collaboration demonstrates that high-quality cancer care can be provided to underserved populations via unique collaborations between academic oncology programs (Mayo) and UMP (Under-represented Minority Patient)-focused care providers (PIMC). UMP are underrepresented in cancer clinical trials, thus limiting the generalizability of the research. As a National Cancer Institute-Comprehensive Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic embraces the responsibility to ensure that its cancer care reaches a diverse patient population, and its relationship with PIMC is a key component of that commitment.

Importantly, this is the only known program of its kind in the country. By embedding the cancer provider in the community, Mayo Clinic physicians are able to build trust with the underserved community and create a direct pathway to quality care and clinical research. In just ten years (2008—2017), 356 breast cancer patients and 259 colorectal cancer patients were seen by Mayo Clinic oncologists and the PIMC nurse practitioner, with a subset of those patients referred from PIMC to Mayo Clinic cancer clinical trials. Prior to the established partnership, no Native American patients were referred to Mayo clinical trials from PIMC. Particularly in the past two years, since becoming OHDR Site Director in Arizona, Donald Northfelt, MD, has concentrated on streamlining the process of Oncology care for Native Americans through PIMC, especially their participation in cancer clinical trials, and has worked with the OHDR Arizona staff and others to improve access for Native Americans via Indian Health insurance coverage. OHDR congratulates all the Phoenix Indian Medical Center and Mayo Clinic personnel who have made—and continue to make—this important collaboration a thriving example of a community-engaged approach to eliminating health disparities.

This video highlights Mayo Clinic’s partnership with the Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC), and how the collaboration helps provide PIMC patients with access to Mayo cancer clinical trials. (~ 4 minutes).

Fri, Oct 5 4:57pm · 2018 Office of Health Disparities Retreat Summary

2018 OHDR Retreat Summary

Featuring Keynotes by Kimberly Jacob Arriola, PhD, and Pernessa Seele, PhD.

Tuesday-Wednesday, August 7-8, 2018

The 2018 Retreat was attended by over 170 researchers, clinicians, educators, and administrators gathered from all three Mayo campuses in Arizona, Florida, Midwest, and the MCHS, and from over 50 departments and work areas, who discussed health disparities research efforts underway across the enterprise, learned about resources available to researchers, and discovered new areas of potential collaboration in the broad area of health disparities research.  The main objectives of the Retreat—‘networking and collaboration,’ establishing new research projects across the Mayo Clinic focused on Community Engagement and Health Disparities, and awareness of the plethora of health equity efforts across the Mayo Shields and their leadership—were successfully accomplished.

The retreat featured opportunities to learn about:

  • OHDR pilot studies
  • Health disparities research resources and funding mechanisms
  • Faith-based ministries as drivers of health
  • Role of telemedicine, virtual reality health platforms and mHealth (mobile-technology assisted health) in addressing health disparities
  • Efforts across Mayo’s Research, Practice and Education shields to address health disparities

Keynote speaker Kimberly Arriola, PhD, a Chronic Kidney Disease researcher from Emory University, addressed systemic racism—and the stress, discrimination, and reduced social conditions it creates—as the greatest single underlying factor in African American health disparities.  Dr. Arriola specifically discussed her research and ongoing efforts to isolate race-related stress as a factor in chronic kidney disease.

Dr. Arriola denoted the health disparities experienced by African-Americans, as they fare worse for almost every major indicator of physical health that is measured, according to data she shared from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, the rate of hypertension is approximately 22.5 percent in African-Americans compared to 15.1 percent in the overall population.

Dr. Arriola discussed her research on chronic kidney disease in African-Americans as a test case for understanding the pathways through which racism may impact health. African-Americans progress more quickly than other racial groups through stages of severity for chronic kidney disease and Dr. Arriola’s team has a study underway to examine whether race-related stress may be a factor in this health disparity. In a proof-of-concept study, researchers are testing whether chronic discriminatory stress is associated with poor kidney function.

Dr. Arriola asserted that racism is an underlying factor in such disparities. “There’s a large stress literature that demonstrates that stress is consistently related to health outcomes,” said Dr. Arriola. She outlined several key points to explain how discrimination can lead to negative health impacts.


CCaTS-sponsored guest speaker Pernessa Seele, PhD, founder and CEO of The Balm in Gilead, Inc.; a nonprofit organization that partners will African-American faith institutions to reduce health disparities.  Dr. Seele outlined the 30-year history of the Balm in Gilead and set forth best practices for engaging faith communities to make public health initiatives relevant and effective.

Dr. Seele asserted the importance of understanding the role of faith in community-based research and health interventions. “As scientists, we may want to see and evaluate… We need to figure out how to bring all our skills to the table,” she said. She emphasized the need for “bringing the doctor and the preacher together” to engage communities in public health awareness campaigns. She outlined best practices for engaging faith communities, emphasizing that faith is significant in the lives of community members, and public health initiatives must incorporate the faith dynamic to be relevant and effective.

Dr. Seele spoke about her pioneering work in the 1980s to engage African-American faith communities in addressing the AIDS epidemic. She established the first Harlem Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS in in 1989, which is now celebrated annually to promote AIDS education nationwide.

In addition to these featured presenters, the retreat included scientific presentations by OHDR’s 2017 Pilot Project Awardees and sessions on ongoing research on Community Engagement and Minority Recruitment efforts (some funded by OHDR).  For example, a Breast Cancer screening intervention project with Midwest Native American Tribes, a Health and Wellness intervention in the Hispanic community in partnership with Hispanic Churches in Jacksonville, Florida, and a decade-long partnerships with the Phoenix Indian Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, to address the Cancer Burden in the Native population in Arizona.  The Retreat also featured Institutional Tools available for facilitating Health Disparities Research, Updates on Enterprise-Wide Health Equity Efforts, and various modes/interventions utilized by researchers to address health disparities; for example, faith-based organizations, telehealth, community asset mapping, and virtual world.

OHDR staff is already making preparations for the 2019 Retreat, to be held Tuesday and Wednesday, August 6 and 7, 2019

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