Addressing Washington's Health Disparities

Lucile L. Adams-CampbellLombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center's associate director for minority health and health disparities research, Lucile Adams-Campbell, PhD, has spent her career studying health disparities. She is committed to addressing the high cancer mortality rates in the Washington, DC, area.

A sense of responsibility. Lucile Adams-Campbell, PhD, says it's one reason she joined Georgetown University Medical Center in 2008.

"As members of the Georgetown community, we have an obligation to reach the members of the community who can best be impacted by what we do in science here," she says. "Sometimes, this means we not only invite them to come to us, but also that we go to them."

Washington, DC, has some of the highest cancer mortality rates in the nation. Dr. Adams-Campbell, a native of the District of Columbia and a life-long resident, has devoted her career to identifying these health disparities and working to address them, through research, community outreach, and education.

GUMC, and Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in particular, has played an active role in the community. For example, Lombardi's Capital Breast Care Center in southeast Washington, DC provides free mammograms to uninsured or underinsured women. But Lombardi Director Louis M. Weiner, MD, created a position to further solidify its commitment to community, recruiting Dr. Adams-Campbell as the cancer center's Associate Director for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research.

"Lucile's leadership in the District of Columbia and expertise in conducting health disparities research and interventions are unparalleled," says Weiner. "I am thrilled to be able to welcome her to Georgetown and to Lombardi."

Dr. Adams-Campbell is an epidemiologist who specializes in community health research, interventions, and outreach, and who has played a leading role in the Washington, DC, cancer and public health communities. With a focus on prevention, she studies issues that affect populations at the greatest risk for developing cancer. Prior to her recruitment to Georgetown, she served as director of the Howard University Cancer Center, a key minority-serving institution in the city, and she is an internationally recognized expert on health disparities. 

Dr. Adams-Campbell has participated and led several large cohort studies of African-American women and played a leading role in the District the Boston University Black Women's Health Study, the largest study of African-American women. Lombardi will soon join the 12-year national study under Dr. Adams-Campbell's leadership.

Just after her arrival at GUMC, Dr. Adams-Campbell received one of science and medicine's highest honors: Election to the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, is considered one of the highest honors in the field of health and medicine, recognizing individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service.

"It is a great pleasure to welcome these distinguished and influential individuals to the Institute of Medicine," said IOM president Harvey V. Fineberg in announcing the IOM's 65 new members and five foreign associates. "Members are elected through a highly selective process that recognizes people who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health."

"To be recognized by the incumbent membership of the Institute of Medicine for my scientific accomplishments in cancer health disparities and public health is incredible and overwhelming," Dr. Adams-Campbell said. "As a member of the IOM and a resident of a city with unparalleled disparities, I will strive to enhance the national focus on health disparities research and prevention education. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this phenomenal organization."

Much of Dr. Adams-Campbell's own research focuses on energy balance involving diet and exercise. In addition to cancer and cancer mortality rates, the District has higher-than-average rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, all of which may be affected by diet and exercise, she says. Through community-based interventions, she hopes to decrease obesity and mortality from these related diseases.

As director of Lombardi's new community outreach office, which will be located in southeast DC, one of her primary goals will be to export prevention clinical trials from the laboratory setting into the community. For example, many studies exclude patients with a history of diabetes, stroke, or smoking. Dr. Adams-Campbell says these studies not only exclude many minorities from participating, but they also fail to reflect disease as it occurs in the population.

GUMC leaders share Dr. Adams-Campbell's commitment to the community.

"Like Lucile, I believe that the Lombardi has a responsibility to our neighbors and that we must work to address the health disparities and high cancer rates in our city," said Dr. Weiner.