Hughes-Halbert will bring to NAM the same priorities she brings to MUSC: a focus on minority health and health disparities issues, especially involving cancer prevention and control. This is personal for her: She lost her mother to breast cancer in 1984 and recently lost an aunt to lung cancer.
“Many individuals lack basic information about the resources that are available in academic medical centers for their health and well-being,” she said, “and many patients have to struggle with the challenges associated with accessing care in these settings. We still need to work on helping patients to navigate the health care system.”
It’s that sensitivity and dedication that brings praise from colleagues, such as Gustavo W. Leone, Ph.D., director of MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center. “Dr. Hughes-Halbert is an extraordinary scientist who has dedicated her career at MUSC and the Hollings Cancer Center to addressing health disparities and minority health issues, particularly in South Carolina. This achievement will continue to elevate the standard of excellence to which our cancer center strives toward, and we look forward to her continued efforts as a pioneer in the fields of health, medicine, and science in the coming years.”
Since coming to MUSC in 2012, Hughes-Halbert has established a collaborative center in precision medicine and minority men’s health to address genetic, lifestyle and environmental issues related to minority health and cancer health disparities.
Hughes-Halbert said there’s much work to be done. “I’m really excited about the work in our center, which is designed to understand the stress process and stress reactivity among minority men, and how that influences their biology with respect to prostate cancer, and how that influences their response to treatment for prostate cancer,” she said. “We want to get a better characterization of their social factors and how that links to and has implications for their long-term survivorship outcomes.”
Her interest in minority men’s health also touches Hughes-Halbert personally. “I’ll tell you the reason I’m interested in minority men is because I’m the mother of two young boys I’m raising to be men. I want them to be healthy.”
In addition to her holding an endowed chair, Hughes-Halbert is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and associate dean for assessment, evaluation and quality improvement in the College of Medicine.
She started her academic career in 1997 after earning her doctorate in personality psychology from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and completing pre- and postdoctoral training in cancer prevention and control at the Georgetown University Medical Center. As a research assistant at Georgetown, she recognized there was very little participation in research studies or clinical trials by African–Americans.
Hughes–Halbert was appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Board of Scientific Advisors.