An elated William R. "Bill" Harvey, president of Hampton University, announced Friday that the university had received a $13.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
"It's a huge grant and it's going to pay huge dividends," said Harvey.
HU is the lead institution in a coalition of HBCUs -- Jackson State, Clark Atlanta, Howard, North Carolina A&T, and St. Augustine -- that will conduct research, education, training and outreach in six major topic areas where disparities in minority health outcomes are most pronounced. These are prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, melanoma in Hispanics, and violence.
It was important to Harvey to make it an HBCU initiative. "We're talking about a minority health issue. That ought to be where the rubber hits the road," he said. "It's a huge step forward."
Raymond Samuel, an assistant dean and associate professor at HU, and co-principal investigator of the study with Nicholas Kenney, associate professor of biology, concurred. "We think this is an opportunity for FUBU (for us and by us)," he said. "This is research for the African-American community by African-American institutions and making sure the outcomes impact beneficially. It matters who is sending the message."
The first year and the initial $1.5 million will be spent in setting up the infrastructure. "It's a very big grant, and we have to work it into a manageable team. Dr. Harvey is accustomed to managing big things," said Samuel. The work will be distributed among the participating institutions with Hampton exploring prostate cancer and melanoma, in keeping with the existing work of the HU Proton Therapy Institute and the HU Skin of Color Research Institute. "It's a natural extension," Samuel added.
A violence and injury prevention project will be led by the psychology department at HU. The study will look at violence from a mental health perspective and also examine early intervention, said Harvey.
Samuel cited the importance of raising awareness in affecting health outcomes, citing the narrowing gap between whites and minorities in five-year survival for prostate cancer thanks to major grass-roots efforts over the past decade. He hopes the work conducted through the grant will help eliminate the still-large disparity in melanoma survival rates and that teaching routine conflict resolution measures to young African-American men will have a significant impact on violence rates.
Harvey anticipates that the research will be a jumping-off point for other issues -- women's health, rural health, even global health. "Perhaps the Caribbean, Haiti, West Africa. The health disparities are worse there than here. That's my hope," he said. "I'm elated that we will be able to make a difference. I cannot emphasize enough how important the team is. I have high, high expectations." ___