Discovery, Delivery and Disparities

“We’re into the business of discovery, but we’re not in the business of delivery. And that needs to change.” Dr. Lovell Jones is Professor Emeritus at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a molecular endocrinologist, and an expert in reproductive cancer, but it’s in his role as an outspoken advocate for healthcare equity that he’s truly made his mark. In this podcast interview with the Hogg Foundation, Jones discusses his life and career in science.

Jones begins by recounting a story when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, she immediately took it as a “death sentence.” That’s no surprise since the breast cancer mortality rate is significantly higher in African-American women than in white women according to a SEER Cancer Statistics Review. As a student at the University of California Medical Center at the time of his mother’s diagnosis, he began to question his career. If his discoveries weren’t impacting the people he cared about the most, he reasoned, something needed to change.

A Holistic Approach

“While in some areas we’re making a lot of progress, on other areas we are falling back,” Jones says, suggesting that we have failed to approach this issue in a holistic manner.

And breast cancer is only one disparity in the healthcare system. Inequities in healthcare, that is different segments of the population having different health outcomes, is an issue that extends beyond cancer and beyond people of color. Jones points to a need to translate his work on health inequalities out to the community and individuals like his mother, who is among the lucky to have excellent access to care and information.

One area that Jones calls out is about the tools and instruments to effect health outcomes. There’s a lot of health information available to individuals, says Jones, but in his view information isn’t the problem; access is. Jones urges us to do everything in our means provide all populations the opportunities and resources needed to live healthy lives.

Looking at the Future

When recounting his “greatest accomplishments,” Jones says he’s tracking down all the people he has interacted with and checking in on their work to continue this movement he’s started. Jones credits his mentor, Howard Bern, with saying that your greatest contribution to science is not the papers you publish or the grants you obtain, but the people you leave behind to continue the work you have begun.

Following the interview with Dr. Jones, we hear a clip from “Bear Dancers,” a story about psychic resiliency rooted in traditional folkways and how this rootedness can be mobilized to address current problems and community needs.

 

Addressing health disparities is a key strategic priority the Hogg Foundation. In 2013, the Hogg Foundation and Grantmakers in Health put together a report on this topic: A Window of Opportunity: Philanthropy’s Role in Eliminating Health Disparities through Integrated Health Care. The report explored whether integrated health care can help eliminate health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities and people with limited English proficiency.

For more on this topic, check out program officer Rick Ybarra’s post titled Eliminating Health Disparities through Culturally and Linguistically Centered Integrated Health Care: Consensus Statements, Recommendations, and Key Strategies from the Field.

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