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​​AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, funded by Susan G. Komen®: Recipients

This award honors an investigator whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the etiology, detection, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of cancer health disparities.

2018 Award Recipient
Chanita Hughes-Halbert, PhD
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina

Dr. Hughes-Halbert will present her award lecture, "Toward Understanding Psychosocial and Behavioral Issues in Cancer Health Disparities," during the 11th AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved.

Dr. Hughes-Halbert is an internationally recognized expert in minority health. She possesses unique expertise across the cancer research spectrum, specializing in the characterization of psychosocial, behavioral, clinical, and genetic factors that contribute to cancer health disparities and precision disease prevention in medically underserved populations. More specifically, her research focuses on enhancing the participation of minorities in cancer research, developing tailored surveillance and intervention protocols to improve cancer outcomes in minority populations, and developing sustainable infrastructures for cancer prevention and control measures mediated by community-based research studies. 

Given the complex nature of cancer health disparities, Dr. Hughes-Halbert's research has steadily evolved from a concentrated focus on genetic counseling and testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, to a transdisciplinary approach that now considers how a multitude of factors influencing cancer outcomes in racial/ethnic minorities and medically underserved populations. Her ongoing research efforts continue to shape the field by facilitating the integration of emerging health care technologies with cancer prevention and control efforts to establish optimal precision medicine regimens for high risk populations. 

Dr. Hughes-Halbert's research has further defined the field of genetic counseling and testing for inherited breast cancer risk in African American women as evidenced by her examination of acceptance rates and outcomes of genetic counseling and testing for African American women harboring BRCA1/2 mutations (Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2006). This research has provided a model of culturally-tailored cancer prevention strategies for minority populations. Furthermore, evolving research in this area has demonstrated that willingness to participate in precision medicine studies is limited among African-Americans, despite positive expectations concerning the benefits of such research efforts.

Dr. Hughes-Halbert earned her PhD from Howard University in 1997 with a focus on personality psychology following completion of a pre-doctoral fellowship in cancer prevention and control at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University, where she also completed her postdoctoral training. In 2001, Dr. Hughes-Halbert was recruited to the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and was later promoted to associate professor, becoming the first African-American woman to be promoted with tenure in the department. In 2012, Dr. Hughes-Halbert was recruited to the Medical University of South Carolina as professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the AT&T Distinguished Endowed Chair for Cancer Equity at the Hollings Cancer. 

The next year, Dr. Hughes-Halbert was appointed as associate dean for Assessment, Evaluation, and Quality Improvement in the College of Medicine. She has served as a member of the NCI's Board of Scientific Advisors and the National Advisory Council for the Human Genome Research. Notably, Dr. Hughes-Halbert was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017, becoming the first investigator and woman in South Carolina to earn this distinction. As an AACR member, Dr. Hughes-Halbert has served on several AACR committees and is also past chairperson of the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research Council.

Dr. Hughes-Halbert's research has been supported by numerous awards from the NCI, NHGRI, and the NIMHD. Her research findings have been published in high impact journals including the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Archives of Internal Medicine, and the American Journal of Public Health. Through her efforts, Dr. Hughes-Halbert has established herself as one of the founding investigators of cancer health disparities research, leading the field through her vision, insight, scholarship, and mentoring in the hopes that her efforts will result in improved quality of care for patients.  

Previous Award Recipients:

  • 2017 Julie R. Palmer
  • 2016: Amelie G. Ramirez
  • 2015: Electra D. Paskett
  • 2014: John D. Carpten
  • 2013: Beti Thompson
  • 2012: Claudia R. Baquet
  • 2011: Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade
  • 2010: Charles M. Perou