Research

Expanding the Pipeline for the Healthcare Professions

UH, MD Anderson address racial, ethnic disparities in workforce and health outcomes


Lorraine-Reitzel-720
By Laurie Fickman | October 11, 2017

“Disparity” is a bad word to Lorraine Reitzel, chair of the Department of Psychological, Health and Learning Sciences at the University of Houston College of Education. And yet it defines everything she does.

“Disparity is an unfair difference. It’s not just a difference; it’s based on some inequity that’s potentially solvable,” said Reitzel.

So solve it she will try. Her focus: the disparity of diverse students in the pipeline to become medical professionals. With a four-year $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Reitzel and a colleague from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will work to create a more diverse pool of medical doctors and scientists while also stimulating collaborative cancer disparities research. That research includes the impact of chronic childhood stress, such as living in poverty, on cancer risk in Mexican immigrants and how factors including tobacco use, poor diet and physical inactivity impact African-Americans and Hispanics in Houston’s Third Ward and East End neighborhoods.

Reitzel will work with Lorna McNeill, chair of the Department of Health Disparities at MD Anderson, on the project, called U-HAND (University of Houston/MD Anderson) Program to Reduce Cancer Disparities. She said it is especially meaningful for a university like UH, the second most ethnically diverse major research university in the United States, to take on this work.

“We are creating an infrastructure that gives our minority students exposure to careers in cancer research and medicine in a way they’ve never experienced,” said Reitzel. The students will be involved with the entire cancer continuum, from prevention to survivorship, in the hope they will go on to serve their own communities.

“A fundamental underlying belief in the value of bringing diversity into science and medicine is so students can ultimately translate what they’re learning to affect those populations and decrease the disparities that exist in health care,” said Reitzel.

Despite dropping cancer mortality rates nationally, African-American and Hispanic populations are disproportionately affected by cancer. African-American men and women have the highest overall cancer death rates, and African-American men have the highest rate of cancer. Among Hispanics, cancer is the leading cause of death. Data from 2013 has shown that African-Americans in the Houston metropolitan area were 14 percent more likely to die from cancer than whites.

Through the program, UH and MD Anderson will establish the Cancer Research Education Program, where MD Anderson faculty members will serve as research mentors for students and junior faculty. Kayce Solari Williams, director of the health program in the UH College of Education, and Shine Chang, director of the Cancer Prevention Research Training Program at MD Anderson, will serve as co-directors. The project also involves UH’s HEALTH (Helping Everyone Achieve a LifeTime of Health) Research Institute, an interdisciplinary effort launched in 2016 to address health concerns in marginalized communities. Reitzel serves as co-founder and co-director of the institute.

Reitzel, a first-generation college graduate and cancer survivor of more than a decade, understands how intimidating a medical career might seem to someone with limited resources. Her own experiences have propelled her passion to eliminate health care inequities, both in the workforce and in health outcomes.

“As a result of this program, one day I would like to see a generation of students who are now doctors and scientists who would never have had these opportunities,” she said. She’s not only certain it’s the right approach, she also thinks it’s nothing short of life changing.

“I work with undergrads, giving them opportunities to publish, and I’ve seen it change the course of their lives,” she said. “Some are now working at MD Anderson, some are getting master’s degrees in public health – all because they’ve been exposed to it and they realized that in doing it, they could do it. They didn’t know they could do it before they had the opportunity.”




Social Posts

profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

At @TexasChildrens, we know all about helping children and their families through stressful times like surgeries. Take a look at these helpful tools to use as you prepare for your child's surgery: https://t.co/4wyHxbjcxe https://t.co/xBp95faWly

38 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHoustonJobs: This job might be a great fit for you: Medical Assistant II - https://t.co/msa6Jg7Kxz #MedicalAssistant #MedicalAssista…

39 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @TXMedCenter: Because Alzheimer’s is a slowly progressing disease, life doesn’t stop the day of a diagnosis. It’s a very gradual goodbye…

40 mins ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Even though this lightweight material is full of holes, it's nearly as hard as diamond and stops bullets better than solid materials: https://t.co/N1QBG6C6yz https://t.co/XKyesrwt6c

40 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Do you ever feel like the humidity wreaks havoc on your productivity levels as well as your hair? Well, there's science to back it up. https://t.co/OStOkaDahz #humidity #productivity

41 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@ShirleyHelenTx We're sending good vibes your way, Shirley. Please let us know if your husband needs anything while he's here.

52 mins ago
profile_image

TexasHeartInstitute

@Texas_Heart

A "silent heart attack" is caused by ischemia, a temporary blood shortage. Sometimes the shortage causes the pain of angina pectoris. But in other cases, there is no pain. These cases are called silent ischemia, or "silent heart attacks." https://t.co/UKu4mglkKJ

1 hour ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

After seeing photos of herself from a family celebration, Adriana Mercado was shocked at how unhealthy she looked. Now, thanks to a walking routine, she’s lost 70 pounds and improved her overall health: https://t.co/dx7z4STihG @FocusedonHealth #endcancer https://t.co/NVmGyo6r8W

2 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

Coogs, we love you ❄️SNOW❄️ much! Happy #CougarRedFriday https://t.co/d43lBGfJBX

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

@debadrita_j Thank you!

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@EstopinalCathy We're sorry to hear about your brother, Cathy. You're in our thoughts.

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

VA, Prostate Cancer Foundation seek solutions for aggressive prostate cancer https://t.co/uGXX5vPImo via #VAntagePoint

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

@debadrita_j This is beautiful! Can we share this on Instagram and credit you?

2 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @UTH_CVSurgery: Congratulations to Dr. Anthony Estrera @estrera_md, honored and appointed the Hazim J. Safi, MD, Distinguished Chair in…

4 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

VA News brings you the latest updates from the department. In this week’s episode, learn about the Veterans Legacy Memorial and a new telehealth program for Veterans in rural areas. https://t.co/vTTreXluWT

4 hours ago