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Meharry Medical College–Vanderbilt–Ingram Cancer Center Partnership: Its History and Role in Cancer Health Disparities Research
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History

In February 1999, Dr. John E. Maupin (then the president of Meharry Medical College [MMC]) invited Dr. Hal Moses (then the Director of Vanderbilt–Ingram Cancer Center [VICC]), Dr. George H. Hill (then the Vice President for Research at MMC), Dr. Robert S. Dittus, Dr. Anna Cherrie Epps (then the Dean of School of Medicine at MMC) and Dr. Samuel E. Adunyah to a meeting in his office. The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance Office was represented by Dr. Clifton Meador, Director. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a proposal from Dr. Moses regarding the possibility of forming a cancer partnership between VICC and MMC. Dr. Moses had just returned from a meeting of Cancer Center Directors in Washington, D.C. during which he learned about the availability of resources for cancer disparities research from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), headed by Dr. John Ruffin.

As a follow-up to this first meeting, Drs. Meador and Moses convened an expanded meeting at the Alliance office to explore the opportunity. Drs. Samuel E. Adunyah, the late Robert Hardy (an Oncologist), George Hill, and Kofi Semenya represented MMC. Drs. Robert S. Dittus, Hal Moses, and Dave Johnson represented VICC. During the discussions, Dr. Adunyah presented an outline of plan for establishment of an MMC-VICC Cancer partnership to include four components: basic science, clinical oncology, outreach and prevention, and PhD training in cancer research. The plan was unanimously accepted as the framework for the partnership. The outcome of the meeting also included plans to apply to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and NCMHD for a supplement grant to the VICC cancer center support grant to support the planning and implementation program as a platform for the eventual application for Cancer U54 grant from NCI. Dr. Hal Moses of VICC and Dr. Samuel E. Adunyah of MMC were selected to lead the partnership and also to serve as the Co-PIs for the supplement applications. Ms. Susan Mills, the Assoc. Director for administration in VICC provided support for Dr. Moses.

The supplement application to NCI’s Program grant to the Vanderbilt Cancer Center was successful. The grant provided about $0.68 million for two years, which supported (1) the development Oncology Clinic at MMC to begin the clinical trials program, (2) seed money for development of 2 basic science pilot projects, (3) partial administrative support, and (4) meetings and retreats during the development of the cancer partnership’s first U54 grant application. (Unfortunately, Dr. Hardy died of cancer before the notice of award was received.) More specifically, this funding provided the resources for recruitment of Dr. Emeka Ikpeazu, an MD/PhD who had just completed his oncology fellowship in VICC to lead the Clinical Oncology core at MMC. He played an initial critical role which led to the establishment from ground zero of Robert Hardy Oncology Clinic in Nashville Metro General Hospital at Meharry Medical College. The supplement funding also provided a year of funding for three pre-pilot basic science projects, which later became part of the basic science components funded by our first U54 grant.

Overall, the supplement funding enabled our new cancer partnership to accelerate its movement towards becoming a fully functional and competitive cancer partnership within the NCI’s Minority Institution/Cancer Center Partnership (MI/CCP). Within a year of the supplement funding, the partnership recruited Ms. Ketia Barnes as an administrative assistant, who has since become a dynamic Senior Coordinator for the partnership. Certainly the timely recruitment of Dr. Steven Stain, a surgeon as the chair of Surgery Dept. at MMC and Dr. Hyacinth Mason at VICC as the Coordinating Assistant to Dr. Hal Moses in the partnership also enhanced our competitiveness. Between July 1999 and March 2000, our partnership expanded its membership, clearly defined its mission and goals, and prioritized both its short and its long-term objectives regarding its role in the war against cancer health disparities. In addition, through a series of biweekly and monthly meetings of the Internal Advisory Committee (comprising six people from each institution) our working model and strategies for a highly competitive U54 grant application were developed. In addition, the frequent meetings between Drs. Adunyah...



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