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Discovery and Passion Fuel Research Director’s Success

Deepak Kumar, Ph.D.

Research is about generating new knowledge. For Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., research is not only his career, it’s his passion. 

Kumar is a cancer health disparity researcher by trade. Through research, he seeks solutions to biological basis of cancer health disparities. 

His continuous pursuit to identify and solve minority health disparities led to being recognized in May as a history maker in minority health and health disparities research by The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. 

“It is important to understand what affects individuals scientifically while also addressing how it directly affects their daily lives,” Kumar said. 

Kumar serves as director of North Carolina Central University’s Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Institute (BBRI) and is an advocate for increasing the number of minority researchers in medicine to address issues related to health disparities.

“In higher education, you are able to pursue your passion and do things for public good while working with students and making a difference in their lives. It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t pass up for anything,” Kumar said. 

He notes BBRI’s strong programs and community outreach that assists with the widespread effect of health disparities as a great point of pride for the university. With its community outreach, the center currently combats health disparities including kidney disease, prostate cancer and diabetes.

His educational philosophy includes an emphasis on experiential learning and the importance of research for undergraduate, as well as graduate students. 

Interacting with NCCU’s Cheatham-White Scholars, a cohort of merit scholars at the university, brings more influence to his hands-on teaching philosophy. This past summer, two students conducted research at the university’s Kannapolis research site studying health disparities. 

“Find your passion, do something you really love. To be a successful researcher one must be passionate and relatable. If you love what you do you will prevail,” he advises future researchers. 

In 2017, under his leadership, the institute secured a $16.3 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHHD) for a new Research Center in Minority Institutions to elevate focus on the university’s health disparities research program. 

The RCMI Center for Health Disparities Research conducts three innovative basic biomedical and behavioral research projects, along with health disparities research pilot projects, involving robust mentoring, development of core facilities and leveraging of resources and partnerships with community-based organizations and neighboring institutions in the Research Triangle area. 

The center also promotes a collaborative research environment conducive to career enhancement for postdoctoral trainees and NCCU faculty at all levels.

We must develop more people who can study health disparities, he adds. 

The research funding from NIMHHD is the largest annual grant amount received by the university, excluding for a non-Title III grant funding, by NCCU and the largest funding for a single principal investigator on campus to date. 

In the near, future research will provide more personalized drugs, therapies and diagnostic tools for broader populations. More strides in cancer research and medicine development for aging populations will also have a tremendous impact on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, he adds.

He forecasts future research efforts will become more personalized and institutionalized to bring researchers together to greaten the impact on health disparities. 

As medicine advances, people are surviving different diseases, he says. 

Kumar received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Agra College, Agra, India, and his Ph.D. in zoology/molecular biology at RML Avadh University.

During his graduate studies, Kumar encountered his first hands-on experience with cutting edge research in India. His mentor made a tremendous impact on developing his skills which would lead to initially researching tuberculous. 

Prior to joining NCCU, Kumar served at the University of the District of Columbia, in a number of leadership roles. During his time at UDC, he created new biology courses on health disparities, biology of aging and genomics for personalized medicine. Kumar also served as adjunct assistant professor and a member of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University after completing his postdoctoral fellowship at Georgetown.

Outside of the lab you may find him on an occasional stroll, reading or listening to music, he also enjoys interacting with family. 

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