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Health equity expert visits Kalamazoo

Sept. 28, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A nationally known expert on cancer and disparities in health care will visit Kalamazoo Thursday and Friday, Oct. 5-6, as part of a community partnership to bring his message to the general public and to students and educators in the local K-12 and university communities.

"Meeting the Health Care Crisis: Recruitment, Retention, Research and Resistance" will be the topic of the keynote address presented by Dr. Lovell A. Jones of the University of Texas' Anderson Cancer Center. The free public event is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, in Room 4010 of Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services building on Oakland Drive.

Jones' visit is made possible by WMU's Visiting Scholars and Artists Program and the College of Health and Human Services with support from the Kellogg Co. of Battle Creek, through Kellogg's Corporate Citizenship Fund, and the Kalamazoo Public Schools in celebration of the Kalamazoo Promise. Additional support for the visit is being provided by WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs.

A veteran researcher and director of the Center for Research on Minority Cancer, Jones is currently running a large-scale study funded by the American Cancer Society, which is examining lifestyles and breast cancer among African-American women. The purpose of the study is to determine the roles genetics, lifestyle and habits, cultural bias, and access to medical care play in the outcome of the cancer that strikes them. The cancer death rate for African Americans is 33 percent higher than for whites.

Jones has conducted extensive research in the area of minorities and cancer and is the founding chair of the Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities, the Medically Underserved and Cancer. He also is the founding co-chair of the Intercultural Cancer Council, which is the nation's largest multicultural health policy group with a focus in this area.

Jones earned his doctoral degree from the University of California-Berkeley in 1977. He joined the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at UT's Anderson Cancer Center the same year and is now a professor in that department as well as in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

While in Kalamazoo, Jones will meet with students from KPS and the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center in a special Thursday morning presentation, also held in Room 4010 of the College of Health and Human Services Building. That event, which is set for 10:30 a.m., will focus on health care careers.

Also during his visit, Jones will meet with WMU minority students in the life sciences and with department chairs and others involved in the College of Health and Human Services' diversity initiatives. He is expected to talk about best practices in recruiting and retaining minority students and suggest ways WMU can tailor those practices for use on its campus.

In speaking engagements around the nation, Jones has stressed the need for researchers and medical units to extend medical research to diverse populations, but also to build diverse staffs across their organizations.

"Most clinical studies hire a recruiter to recruit patients for that particular population, but the rest of their staff hasn't changed," Jones said recently in an American Cancer Society interview. "So the community sees an African American, Hispanic American or Asian American out there recruiting, then they go into the clinic and wonder, 'What happened?' It's like putting a band-aid over a heart attack, hoping it will have an impact."

Bonnie Rencher, a clinical faculty member in WMU's Bronson School of Nursing is coordinating Jones' visit to Kalamazoo. She met Jones two years ago at a conference and realized his was a message that was important not just for WMU but also for the entire community--particularly as opportunities for local students have dramatically increased because of the Kalamazoo Promise.

Dr. Brenda Earhart, director of KAMSC, agrees and says she sees the Jones speech as a natural fit for the community. Her organization has designated the Jones lecture as the first in a series of lectures this year to celebrate KAMSC's 20th anniversary.

"We are delighted to partner with WMU and KPS to make Dr. Jones available to our students and community. It is a wonderful opportunity as we look for solutions to the many problems we encounter in Kalamazoo and beyond," Earhart says.

For more information about Jones' visit, contact Bonnie Rencher at (269) 387-8178.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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