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Dr. John Ruffin
Dr. J. Nadine Gracia
NCCU Presents Major Conference on Health Disparities
Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

North Carolina Central University will present a three-day conference on health disparities this week at which leaders in the field will present their findings and exchange ideas.

The conference, titled “Pursuing Health Equity Through Translational Research and Partnerships,” will take place Wednesday through Friday, April 17-19, at the Durham Convention Center in downtown Durham. The conference is intended for a broad audience — not only scientists and researchers, but also policymakers, public health officials, healthcare providers, community organizations and students. The aim is to promote open discussion of issues related to health disparities in communities throughout the nation. 

Featuring speakers who are leaders at the intersection of science and public policy, the conference will include plenary sessions intended for a general audience. Specialized workshops and breakout sessions will focus on aspects of cultural competence, biomedical research, health policy, environmental issues and other areas of inquiry.

The keynote speaker on Thursday (9 a.m.) is Dr. John Ruffin, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, was established as the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities in 2000 and gained full institute status in 2010. It has been under Ruffin’s direction since 2001. A longtime leader in the field of minority health and health disparities, Ruffin is a biologist by training who holds a Ph.D. from Kansas State University and completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard University. He served as chairperson of NCCU’s Department of Biology and later served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Lovell Jones, Ph.D., director of Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity and Evaluation Research at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, will serve as the guest speaker for the plenary session on Thursday (1 p.m.).

The featured speaker on Friday (8:15 a.m.) is Dr. Nadine Gracia, deputy assistant secretary for minority health and the director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A pediatrician with epidemiology training, Gracia helps formulate policy for an agency that promotes improved health among racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of policies and programs aimed at eliminating health disparities.

On Friday at 1:30 p.m., Gracia will be the guest of NCCU students at a Convention Center reception. Members of NCCU’s campus chapter of the Office of Minority Health Preconception Peer Educator program will give presentations, focusing on their work to reduce disproportionately high infant mortality rates among African-Americans and promote improved health and wellness before pregnancy.  

Health disparities have been a focus of health education programs at NCCU since the 1940s. In recent years, the university has built up its resources, faculty and laboratory facilities to support extensive biomedical research in the field as well. 

“This is an important initiative for the university, one that is consistent with our longstanding commitment to address health disparities through education and research,” said Dr. Hazell Reed, vice chancellor for Research and Economic Development, whose division has organized the gathering.

The cost to attend the conference is $150, with reduced rates for students ($25) and postdoctoral scholars ($75). Registration can be completed at www.nccu.edu/healthdisparities/registration.cfm. For additional information about the conference, contact the NCCU Division of Research and Economic Development at 919-530-6893 or healthdisparities@nccu.edu

The conference sponsors include UNC General Administration (presenting sponsor); Duke Cancer Institute, Office of Health Equity and Disparities (lunch sponsor); Burroughs Welcome Fund (session sponsor). Supporting sponsors are Ladas and Parry, LCC; The Freelon Group Architects; National Library of Medicine; Soxeho Inc.; and the Office of Minority Health Resource Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Media Note: For interview requests, please contact Rob Waters at rlwaters@nccu.edu no later than Wednesday, April 17.

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