Conversation with a cancer thought leader

Otis W. Brawley, SB'81, MD'85

On October 4, 2021, the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center hosted a virtual discussion featuring Otis W. Brawley, SB’81, MD’85, about cancer prevention and control, and ensuring equity in the care and outcomes of patients with cancer. Dr. Brawley discussed the increase in cancer rates, which he said will become the most common cause of death in the US within 5–10 years. He also highlighted some of the causes of cancer disparities and how we can level the playing field.

“I really like to focus on trying to reduce the risk factors as a way of reducing the disparity,” Dr. Brawley shared.

The event also featured Funmi Olopade, MD, FACP, Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics and director, Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Global Health, and Karen Kim, MD, professor of medicine.  Dr. Olopade discussed the WISDOM Study (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk), which is evaluating new techniques to help prevent aggressive cancers by detecting genetic predispositions, and CancerIQ, a company she cofounded with her daughter, which offers women a new way to detect breast cancer based on their individual risk factors.

“There’s a whole movement around population risk stratification because we really cannot wait for people to get cancer and then treat them. We’ve got to find everybody wherever they are,” Dr. Olopade said.

Dr. Kim is the founder of the only research center dedicated to Asian health disparities in the Midwest. She discussed a software tool, currently being tested, to mitigate gaps in colorectal cancer services. This tool will help providers schedule screenings more easily, improve communication between health facilities, and improve patients’ access to timely and quality care.

“I think what’s critically important is how do we translate all the knowledge we have into real-world settings so it eventually impacts patients? That’s a multi-level, multi-system collaboration. I think we are really, really good at doing that at the University of Chicago,” Karen Kim shared.

Dr. Brawley was honored at the event as the 2021 recipient of the Simon M. Shubitz Cancer Prize. The Simon M. Shubitz Cancer Prize and Lectureship, named in honor of distinguished alumnus, Simon M. Shubitz, Rush MD’36, recognizes excellence in cancer research.

“I have to congratulate my ‘big brother,’ Otis, who really is one of ‘Pritzker’s Pride,’ I call them, because they really think outside the box and they really shake conventional wisdom,” Dr. Olopade said.

Dr. Brawley is a world-renowned cancer expert who has worked to close racial, economic, and social disparities in the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. He is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and the former chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society. Dr. Brawley is a past recipient of the University of Chicago Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award (formerly Distinguished Service Award) and the University of Chicago Alumni Association’s Professional Achievement Award. In 2020, Dr. Brawley was chosen as the invited speaker for the University of Chicago’s Class Day celebration—an annual event during Convocation weekend that celebrates graduating students and their accomplishments.

Watch the full program to hear more from Drs. Brawley, Kim, and Olopade >>


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