Lucile Adams-Campbell: Reaching Out, Studying Disparities
(This is part 6 of 6 of a series of articles excerpted from "A Medical Mission" in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Georgetown Magazine. Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5)
Georgetown Medical Center’s Lucile Adams-Campbell is excited about reaching out to the surrounding community in Washington, D.C., which has some of the highest cancer rates in the country.
Adams-Campbell is an epidemiologist recently recruited as the associate director for minority health and health disparities research at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“It’s very important that we have the community truly engaged and that they realize and recognize that Georgetown is really committed to making an effort to reach out to the community to address health disparities,” she says.
She plans to have a community-based office and staff in Southeast Washington as well as on campus. One of the goals of the office will be to bring prevention-based clinical trials from the laboratory setting into the community.
Born in Washington, Adams-Campbell went to McKinley Technology High School, and then went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in biological science and a master’s in biomedical science from Drexel University in Philadelphia.
“I always liked science, took physics in high school and took all these courses my girlfriends didn’t,” she recalls. “When I was doing my PhD in epidemiology, I liked the quantitative sciences so much I took all my electives in biostatistics, which probably most people don’t do.”
In the 1970s, she studied at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, where much later, Lombardi Director Louis Weiner served as chair of the medical oncology department and vice president for translational research.
“I had the honor of working in the same division (at Fox Chase) with Baruch Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize in 1976,” she notes. “I had the opportunity to make the Philadelphia Inquirer in a photo with Dr. Blumberg – that was exciting for a young student.”
She received her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1983 and has researched health disparities for her entire academic career.
“I think the whole idea that research never focused on minority populations or minority issues, although those populations tend to have the worst prognosis and outcome, always was an enigma to me because I think they should have been pursued,” says Adams-Campbell, internationally known for her decades-long research on health disparities. “Now it’s more in vogue to work on health disparities, but this is what I’ve done all my life.”
Her most recent position has been as director of the Howard University Cancer Center, where she served from 1995 to 2008. She helped lead the large cohort research sample called the Black Women’s Health Study, which looks at why African American women have higher rates of illnesses such as hypertension, breast cancer, diabetes, stroke and lupus. The 12-year study, which Lombardi has now joined, seeks a better understanding of the causes of such illness in this population and the determinants of good health.
Adams-Campbell is the author or co-author of more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and has earned so many honors and awards they fill up two pages of her curriculum vita.
One of her most recent awards was her election in 2008 to the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, a prestigious nonprofit organization that advises the nation on ways to improve health. “I was actually numb,” she says of her election. “I was shocked. I just stood there reading the letter over and over again. Once I thought about it and got past that initial moment, I thought it was very exciting. But I was stunned – probably still am.”
Not everyone was surprised.
“Lucile’s election to this prestigious academy is a testament to her intellectual contributions to her field,” said Howard J. Federoff, executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine.
“Lucile’s leadership in the District of Columbia and expertise in conducting health disparities research and interventions are unparalleled,” Lombardi director Weiner said in announcing the new outreach office and its director this past September. In May she was inducted to the D.C. Hall of Fame for her work.
Adams-Campbell says she has always had an abundance of energy. She now gets up at 5 a.m. every morning and laments that she no longer rises at 3 a.m.
“I’m one of these hyperactive adults that never had a cup of coffee in my life,” she notes. “I enjoy what I do and look forward to enhancing my career at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and playing a major role in addressing health disparities at the local, regional, national, and international level.”
By Frank Reider, excerpted from the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Georgetown Magazine