USF-Moffitt Center of Excellence unveils new name

L to R: Dr. William Dalton, Dr. Richard Roetzheim, Maria Pinzon, Dr. Leslene Gordon, Dr. B. Lee Green and Dr. Ralph Wilcox.

The USF-Moffitt Center of Excellence for Cancer Health Disparities was formally introduced to the community Nov. 12 at a reception attended by community leaders, elected officials and university and Moffitt Cancer Center faculty and staff.

The center’s new name — Center for Equal Health: Community Partnerships in Research, Education and Training – was unveiled for the audience by community directors Leslene Gordon, PhD, of the Hillsborough County Health Department and Maria Pinzon of the Hispanic Services Council.

The center will focus on reducing cancer-related disparities among Florida’s minority and underserved populations. Researchers will address such questions as why African-American men are much more likely to develop and die from prostate cancer than white men. This summer, USF and Moffitt were awarded a highly competitive $6-million, five-year program grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health, to establish the center — one of three in Florida.

Desiree Rivers, PhD, center director, was emcee for the reception.

“I’ve spent my entire career documenting the toll of health disparities, so it’s very exciting that we have the chance to do something to develop effective solutions,” said Center Co-Director Richard Roetzheim, MD, MPH, professor and director of research for the USF Department of Family Medicine. “It will be challenging, but we’ve assembled a tremendous team of talented people from USF, Moffitt and the community.”

“The community must be a vital and active participant in our Center,” said Center Co-Director B. Lee Green, PhD, professor and vice president of Moffitt Diversity. “The Center is not intended to be about statistics, but about addressing the needs of real people – some of whom unfortunately suffer disproportionately from serious diseases and disabilities.”

USF Provost Ralph Wilcox, PhD, said the legal, socioeconomic, structural and other barriers that lead to inequities in care and poorer health outcomes for minority and disadvantaged populations are daunting, but not insurmountable.

“The Center is exactly the type of partnership model that allows Moffitt and USF to unleash their complementary strengths,” Wilcox said. “I remain hopeful that this collaboration will help us better understand the scope and root causes of disparities and, most importantly, generate solutions to close the gaps of these disparities.”

Florida ranks second in the United States in the number of deaths from cancer, said Moffitt CEO William Dalton, PhD, MD. He noted that USF and Moffitt had a one in 10 chance of securing the highly competitive NCMHD Center of Excellence award. “Competing with the best and brightest in the nation to win this grant speaks volumes about this community and the partnership between USF and Moffitt,” he said.

USF Provost Ralph Wilcox, PhD, with the College of Public Health’s Deanna Wathington, MPH, co-leader for the center’s Community Engagement Core.

– Story by Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications
– Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications

USF-Moffitt Center of Excellence Targets disparities in cancer care and outcomes