UT Medical Center's Cancer Institute Participates in Local Initiative to Address Racial Disparities in Health

The University of Tennessee Medical Center's Cancer Institute participated in the East Towne Health Fair on Saturday, September 9, hosted by Healthy Pathways, an initiative of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center and the Cancer Support Community.

This event was Healthy Pathway's first health fair and offered free health screenings, educational resources, fitness demonstrations, community resources, entertainment, and healthy lifestyle classes. UT Medical Center's Cancer Institute offered breast and prostate cancer screenings. Dr. Bedford Waters, urologist at UT Medical Center, was in attendance at the event to perform prostate screenings.

Data shows that in Knox County, black men are more likely than white men to die of colon cancer. Black women are more likely than white women to die of breast cancer. Identifying and overcoming disparities like these is a goal of Healthy Pathways.

Dr. Keith Gray, a surgical oncologist at UT Medical Center, has been involved with the initiative since it started to take shape at a 2015 forum. “For a really long time, we’ve kind of put (health) disparities into categories by race and ethnicity,” Gray said. “As an African-American medical student, you begin to wonder, ‘Why does my race always do so much more poorly over all areas of health care?’ … The disparities exist along socioeconomic lines.”

Gray and others have spent two years in Knoxville communities where disparities are highest, trying to learn why those communities have a higher risk of cancer and poorer outcomes and teach people how to decrease their risk of dying from cancer. 

To learn more, read the recent Knoxville News Sentinel article by reporter Kristi Nelson at this link.