Health equity research leader Chanita Hughes-Halbert, PhD, joins Preventive Medicine

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Chanita Hughes-Halbert, PhD, will join the Keck School of Medicine of USC as a professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Preventive Medicine and will serve as associate director for cancer equity, a newly created position, at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her appointment begins July 1, 2021.

Hughes-Halbert will join USC from the Medical University of South Carolina, where she is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, co-leader of the Cancer Control Program, holder of the AT&T Distinguished Endowed Chair at the Hollings Cancer Center and associate dean for assessment, evaluation and quality improvement at the College of Medicine.

Chanita Hughes-Halbert

She is a nationally recognized leader in cancer prevention and minority health research. She has dedicated her career to reducing the disparities in cancer outcomes that affect patients from underrepresented communities, with a primary focus on African American communities. Among her many achievements, she has identified sociocultural, psychological, genetic and environmental determinants of cancer health disparities and translates this information into interventions to improve health equity among racially and ethnically diverse populations, as well as other medically underserved groups.

For her many contributions, Hughes-Halbert was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017.

“I am honored to join the exceptional faculty in the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Southern California,” Hughes-Halbert said. “I am excited about working with the institutional leaders at USC to expand and enhance the breadth, depth and impact of health promotion and disease prevention in diverse populations through new research initiatives with academic health centers, community-based organizations and public health providers.”

“Her appointment bolsters important areas of strategic focus at the Keck School of Medicine,” noted Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD, professor and the Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“To have Dr. Hughes-Halbert joining our department is a substantial boon to our efforts to advance health equity and strengthen research into population and public health,” he said. “As an investigator, she demonstrates both exceptional rigor and creativity, and as she breaks new ground Dr. Hughes-Halbert applies her findings to improve the health of people who have been underserved by the medical system. I’m delighted to have the chance to call her a colleague here at USC.”

At her current post, Hughes-Halbert directs the Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center in Precision Medicine and Minority Men’s Health. This program is dedicated to harnessing advances across an array of scientific fields to develop new medical strategies for minority men that are tailored to the specific social, genetic and environmental factors affecting each person’s health, with a focus on cancer.

“We are thrilled to have recruited Dr. Hughes-Halbert to USC Norris and the Keck School of Medicine, as reducing cancer disparities in our region and nationally is core to the mission of our NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Caryn Lerman, PhD, Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Associate Dean for Cancer Programs and the H. Leslie and Elaine S. Hoffman Professor in Cancer Research. “She is a distinguished scientist and in her USC Norris leadership role she will heighten our ongoing efforts to ensure that our high impact research and personalized patient care benefits all people, including those who have historically not had access to new revolutions in cancer prevention and treatment.”

In addition to her election to the National Academy of Medicine, Hughes-Halbert received the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Control Award in 2010. President Barack Obama appointed her to the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors in 2012, and in 2014 she joined the National Advisory Council of the National Human Genome Research Institute. The American Association for Cancer Research named her chair of its Minorities in Cancer Research Council the same year, and she received the AACR Distinguished Lecture Award on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, in 2018.

Before her time at the Medical University of South Carolina, Hughes-Halbert was on the faculty at Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from Howard University after graduating summa cum laude from Hampton University.