Disparities Across the Ocean and Next Door

Like the rest of campus, the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics seminar series is on spring break, resuming in early April with a talk from provocative economist Richard Epstein. So now’s a good chance to get caught up on the previous quarter’s seminars, covering topics under the umbrella of health disparities from the biological factors of breast cancer to the relationship between crime and public health to some of the exciting projects from the Urban Health Initiative. Hopefully, the ScienceLife coverage has kept interested readers informed about the valuable contents of this unique seminar series, but if you prefer a more visual experience, the MacLean Center website has posted several of the lectures in video form. Here’s a recap of the Winter Quarter sessions that are currently available for viewing.

Eliminating Global Disparities in Breast Cancer – Olufunmilayo Olopade Jim Fackenthal, University of Chicago

Unfortunately, Dr. Olopade was unable to deliver her talk due to a last-minute conflict, but Jim Fackenthal, research associate assistant professor in her laboratory, was able to provide emergency relief. The disparity in the survival rates of white women and black women in the United States with breast cancer remains wide, and while some of this gap can be explained by socioeconomic factors, biology also plays a role. Fackenthal talks about the evidence for more aggressive and harder to treat forms of breast cancer in women of West African origin here and abroad. The group’s research projects span from laboratory experiments on genetics and epigenetics to blood testing and screening in Nigeria.


Births to Arab-American Women Before and After 9/11: Evidence of Stress Effects – Diane Lauderdale, University of Chicago

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were stressful for all Americans, but possibly most challenging for Arab-Americans who experienced discrimination in the wake of the events. Lauderdale, a professor of epidemiology, wanted to look at whether one could measure a negative health impact of this discrete period of stress, choosing premature or underweight births as a health outcome potentially sensitive to discrimination. It wasn’t an easy task, as Lauderdale and her collaborators first had to develop an algorithm to find names in California’s birth registry that are likely of Arab origin. But the results of the study were striking, as Lauderdale was able to measure a spike in babies born underweight to Arab-American mothers in the months after 9/11, without any significant changes among other ethnicities.


Crime Control and Health Disparities – Harold Pollack, University of Chicago

Most people think of public health purely in terms of disease and health care, but Pollack, professor in the School of Social Service Administration, reminded us that violence and crime are a significant piece of urban health. Homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American men between the age of 15 and 34, and wide racial disparities in incarceration rates can produce epidemics of drug addiction, sexually transmitted disease, and other ailments in urban populations. Pollack, who also serves as co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, chased these astonishing figures with early data on programs designed to keep urban teenagers out of jail and away from violence.


Asset-Based Approaches to Urban Health – Stacy Lindau, University of Chicago

One of the most exciting and unique projects at the Medical Center right now is the Community Asset Mapping Project, part of the South Side Health & Vitality Studies. Lindau, associate professor of obstetrics/gynecology and principal investigator for the SSHVS, described the project’s mission of collecting detailed and dynamic information about the resources available to citizens of the South Side, from health clinics to exercise facilities to grocery stores. The data will be doubly useful, both as a resource to neighborhood residents (through the southsidehealth.org website) and to researchers looking for the best way to improve woeful health statistics on the South Side of Chicago.


Patient Perceptions of Clinical Care and Physician Communication: Implications for Health Disparities – Monica Peek, University of Chicago

Discussions of health disparities often focus on broad issues such as societal discrimination and economics. But what about the one-on-one interactions between doctor and patient at the clinic? Peek, assistant professor of medicine, examined the evidence for how physicians subconsciously stereotype their patients and educational efforts to encourage more active participation of patients in decisions about their health care.


[Each academic year, the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics organizes a series of lunchtime seminars by physicians, biologists, economists, social scientists and other experts covering the biggest questions in health care and ethics. This year’s theme is “Health Disparities: Local, National, Global,” and the series was put together with the Urban Health Initiative, the Global Health Initiative, and Finding Answers. ScienceLife will carry regular coverage of this unique series, and video of the lectures will be posted when available.]

About Rob Mitchum (525 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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