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Addressing Disparities in Breast Cancer Outcomes by Training Investigators from

Affected Populations

Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has proudly offered grants for Post-Baccalaureate Training in Disparities Research (PBTDR) for the last three years. These important training grants are a unique part of Komen’s efforts to energize breast cancer research and commitment to invest in projects that tackle complex issues related to breast cancer, particularly disparities in cancer incidence, diagnoses and outcomes.  Susan G. Komen for the Cure believes that training the next generation of scientists how to approach and research the many factors involved in breast cancer disparities is critical to tackling this important issue.

The Komen PBTDR programs seek to attract students from populations affected by disparities in breast cancer outcomes into careers that aspire to understand and eliminate these disparities.  In addition, these programs will provide tools and skills critical not only to effectively explore the basis for differences in breast cancer outcomes, but also to translate results into clinical and public health practice to eliminate these disparities.  The programs supported by these grants will train students to examine such differences through the complex interplay of social, behavioral, environmental, genetic, public health, and economic factors, as well as political and health system forces, that may contribute to them.

Currently Komen has invested almost $3 million in nine different PBTDR programs.  These programs represent a wide variety of fields, ranging from the profiling of tumors from different ethnic groups to the creation of educational materials for cancer prevention that target specific underserved populations.  Additionally, an important goal of this training is to encourage students to stay in the field of breast cancer disparities throughout their career. 

Briana Lawrence, MPH, is studying ways to reduce disparities in minority participation in clinical trials at the University of Texas at Health Science Center at Houston with Dr. Luisa Franzini.  Growing up in an inner city, Ms. Lawrence has observed disparities in health care affect her community and her family and feels that she knows too many African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age.  Therefore, she is excited and grateful for the opportunities the PBTDR program has provided her.  The Komen supported training grant has “allowed me to think outside the box and figure out where I can fit in to work on eliminating breast cancer disparities,” says Ms. Lawrence.  She is passionate about her work and feels like the PBTDR program and Dr. Franzini’s guidance has put her on the path to “make a break through.”

Mwende Muindi has joined the PBTDR program at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health under the mentorship of Dr. Ann Klassen.  Ms. Muindi is passionate about the role of religious and cultural beliefs in health care decisions and is inspired to help women like her mother make the best choices for their health regarding breast cancer screening.   She currently is doing research on a nutrition intervention with black women in churches in Baltimore City and hopes to continue to work on breast cancer risk reduction research.  Ms. Muindi, a veteran Komen Race participant, feels that “through the PBTDR Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been a key leader in an important area of research that is often underfunded.  Without the PBTDR program, it would have been difficult for me to participate in this work.”  The training provided through Dr. Klassen and other leading experts has given her the foundation a young scientist needs to then take steps towards productive research and effecting change in disparities in breast cancer outcomes.