SALSI-funded speaker series focuses on cancer health disparities

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 15, 2010) — The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and UT San Antonio are teaming up to launch the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI) Distinguished Health Disparities Lecture Series, which will periodically bring some of the top U.S. health disparities experts to San Antonio to offer the latest trends, tools and advancements in the fight against cancer health disparities among the underserved.

The series starts Oct. 20 and runs until August 2011.

The series will feature speakers who can enhance the knowledge and abilities of local doctors and researchers, who then can apply learned techniques and strategies in their labs, clinics and communities to address disparities in South Texas.

South Texas residents, particularly Hispanics/Latinos, experience many health disparities—the disproportionately higher incidence and mortality of certain conditions, compared to whites.

“Given this region’s unequal burden of obesity, chronic disease and cancer, this SALSI lecture series will feature outstanding health disparities experts from across the U.S. in order to expose our local physicians and researchers to novel methods of addressing health disparities in our region,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., a disparities researcher and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the Health Science Center.

The IHPR is coordinating the series with funding from SALSI and help from UTSA.

SALSI was approved by state lawmakers in 2001 in coordination with The University of Texas System Board of Regents to build and strengthen collaboration between the Health Science Center and UTSA. SALSI in 2009 received its first funding from the Legislature — an $8 million, two-year award — for projects and programs to enhance research, teaching and service.

The first lecture in the new series, set for Oct. 20, features Dr. Rena Pasick, a professor medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Pasick, a well-established population-based cancer control researcher, conducts community- and clinic-based intervention studies to increase the use of and access to breast and cervical cancer screening among ethnically diverse and underserved communities. She also developed a training program to encourage minority students and professionals to pursue doctoral degrees in cancer research.

Dr. Pasick’s research indicates that, along with objective physical data, research methods need to be used that record social context, such as a person’s ethnic, socio-economic and educational backgrounds and subjective social experience.

The next speaker in the series will be Dr. Paula Braveman, director of the Center on Social Disparities in Health at the University of California, San Francisco. Her lecture, The Social Determinants of Health: Relevance to Cancer Disparities, will take place Jan. 27.

Social determinants are the social and environmental factors within a community that affect a person’s health. These are important to understand, as a person can be part of overlapping communities, according to Dr. Braveman’s research. For instance, a person living in a low-income area with poor food and activity options, while earning a higher income than others in the area, may still be affected by aspects of the low-income community that would not affect a person making the same income but living in a different area.

Other prestigious speakers are being recruited.

“We’re recruiting some of the most well-respected names in health disparities research,” said Dr. Ramirez, who also is the associate director of health disparities at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center, the National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center at the UT Health Science Center. “We’re hoping these speakers spark new research and clinical collaborations across the South Texas region that can reduce health disparities.”

Both the CTRC and the IHPR are in the Health Science Center School of Medicine.

Future lectures are expected to be featured live online in the future, as well as recorded and published online. For more information, visit the IHPR’s home page at

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