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Engaging Local Communities to Reduce Cancer Disparities

Photo of Edith Mitchell, M.D.

Edith Mitchell, M.D., Clinical Professor, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University

Edith Mitchell, M.D., developed a passion for medicine because of a doctor who cared for her great-grandfather at their farm north of Memphis, Tennessee. When 3-year-old Edith announced she wanted to be a doctor like him when she grew up, he told her she could be anything she wanted to be. She followed her dream and became a doctor.

While in medical school in the 1970s, Edith joined the US Air Force (USAF) and eventually became the first female physician in USAF history to attain the rank of brigadier general.

As an oncologist and researcher, Edith works to bring the latest treatments to communities that need them the most. “If we are unable to deliver care to at-risk populations in their neighborhoods, we will not succeed,” she said. “We need to increase equal access to care.”

Edith advocates engaging community physicians to address cancer disparities, an approach she lives by. For example, after holding focus groups with local communities, African American enrollment in her NCI-funded R01 trial on colorectal cancer reached 25%. This percentage is about four-times higher than average.

Edith developed patient education videos that promoted the screening and treatment of colorectal and breast cancers. The breast cancer video was televised during Black History Month, and 30,000 copies were distributed to doctors’ offices across the United States. Also, at a patient education event, she followed her own advice of “knowing your audience” and gave her presentation in Spanish rather than English because of the number of Latinas in the audience.

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