FAMU hosts open-house to showcase new health equity center

Florida A&M University will host an open-house event at the New Pharmacy Building to celebrate its collaborative partnership with the University of Florida and the University of Southern California. 
Photo Courtesy of FAMU College of Pharmacy

On Friday, Feb. 1 Florida A&M University will host an open-house event to celebrate its collaborative partnership with the University of Florida and the University of Southern California.

Last fall FAMU, UF, and USC were awarded a $16 million grant to address cancer health disparities among Latinos and African-Americans from the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute.

The multi-institutional partnership will involve three research projects, a community outreach program, and student training.

Friday’s open-house will invite stakeholders, directors of the NCI, and members of the FAMU scientific community to the campus’ New Pharmacy Building to introduce the health equity center.

Terrell Brown, an Assistant Professor of social work, has worked endlessly to prepare for the event since September when the award letter was received.

“I hope the center itself is successful,” said Brown. “Our main objective is to provide training, education, and research to underrepresented communities.” After transitioning his area of research from HIV to Cancer, Brown has been a part of the center’s planning and evaluation team.

The community engagement portion of the health equity center is expected to benefit the community by providing internships, doctorial opportunities, and achieving cancer health equities.

Medicinal chemistry professor Renee Reams is responsible for submitting the preliminary data for the grant. She said that some populations are more likely to be diagnosed with certain cancers and she wanted to close the gap between which groups of people get assistance.

“The overall goal of this project is to address cancer disparities in racial groups that tend to get more frequently diagnosed. This three institutional partnership will allow us to ask questions and compare and contrast results,” explained Reams. “By giving student researchers a running start to get preliminary data we’re bringing junior faculty from not having any mainstream funding to being able to write and win their own independent grants.”

Servicing communities of color is a big portion of the health equity center’s mission. Being multi-institutional in community outreach will assist Black and Latino populations by raising awareness about risk factors of being diagnosed with cancer, assembling survivor support groups, generating interest in familial health history and genetic counseling, encouraging check-ups or annual exams, and announcing new findings in cancer research.

Two of the equity center’s research projects will examine pancreatic cancer by discovering ways to catch cancerous pancreatic cells early with effective diagnostic testing and improving chemotherapy through Gemcitabine drug treatments.

A virtual tissue repository and prostate cancer experiment will also be established through funding from the grant.

The center will benefit students of UF, USC, and FAMU by launching a summer training that allows students to research cancer in labs and publish abstract data from the program. This opportunity will introduce research careers as well as graduate and medical schooling for the students involved.

Reams believes the center will expose students to the techniques they need for the future as scientists. “You don’t have to be in a world renowned lab, you just have to have an idea and follow through with it. You can do world-class research right here at FAMU,” says Reams

The open-house event is expected to promote more partnerships for the center and welcome it to the campus.