UAB's annual Health Disparities Research Symposium to feature nationally renowned experts

UAB health disparities symposium examines integrating social and biological factors.

mona fouad 2012 The ninth annual University of Alabama at Birmingham Health Disparities Research Symposium, slated for Thursday, March 20, will showcase compelling panel discussions and the groundbreaking findings of eminent researchers in the health disparities field.

The theme for this year's event is “Integrating Social and Biological Factors in Health Disparities Research.”

The symposium, to be held at the Doubletree Hotel at 808 20th St. South in Birmingham, is sponsored by the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center and the Mid-South Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center for Health Disparities Research, or Mid-South TCC.

The forum is designed to keep scientists at UAB and other academic institutions across the South, including key minority institutions, at the forefront of health disparities research. The event highlights investigators' work and allows scholars to share ideas and build connections in the scientific community.

“Health disparities are complex,” said MHRC Director Mona Fouad, M.D. “Multiple mechanisms interact in complex ways to contribute to individuals' health status. This 'web of conditions' includes various forms of social stratification - such as social class, race/ethnicity, and gender - as well as genetics, personal health behavior and utilization of medical care. Our research needs to acknowledge this complexity and to approach health as an interaction of multiple causal mechanisms.”

The symposium features a keynote address by Paula Braverman, M.D., professor of the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine. He will address the topic “Where Health Disparities Begin: The Role of Social and Economic Determinants.”

The symposium features a keynote address by Paula Braverman, M.D., professor of the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine and director of the Center on Social Disparities in Health. Braverman, who has worked with the World Health Organization to develop a global initiative on equity in health care, will address the topic “Where Health Disparities Begin: The Role of Social and Economic Determinants.”

Later in the day, Braverman will participate in a panel discussion on “Pushing the Frontier in the Study of Gene-Environment Interactions.” Other panelists include David Allison, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and associate dean for Science at the UAB School of Public Health; Jason Boardman, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Frank Hu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. The panel will be moderated by Frank Franklin, M.D., Ph.D., professor emeritus at the UAB School of Public Health.

“We have barely begun to understand the full implications of each of these factors - from socioeconomic status, race and gender to health behavior, genetics and medical care,” said Fouad. “We need studies that show how social factors alter biological processes, including gene expression, and affect health. By transdisciplinary collaboration to study both biological and sociological pathways, we can understand how risk of disease is differentially acquired over the life course, which are the key intervention points that can bolster protection, and which specific interventions and treatments can be most effective for which population group.”

The symposium also includes sessions on “Gene-Environment Interactions and Disparities in Obesity and Diabetes,” led by Hu, and “Incorporating Evidence from Gene-Environment Studies into Health Disparities Research in the United States,” led by Boardman. Midday breakout sessions will allow scholars and scientists from around the region to present their latest findings in the field of health disparities.

Registration for the event is free and open until midnight Wednesday, March 19. To register, or for more information, visit mhrc.dopm.uab.edu.

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