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Junior Investigator Grant Will Enable Research on Cancer Screenings Disparities

By Nancy Dockter, MPH
Diversity Process Coordinator
Center for Diversity Affairs

Michael Preston, MPH
Director of UAMS Cancer Control

Michael Preston, MPH, director of UAMS Cancer Control, has been awarded a research grant from the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR), at the University of Kentucky at Lexington. He will use the one-year, $10,000 grant to investigate the impact of the Affordable Care Act on colorectal cancer screenings and disparities in screenings, as well as approaches for overcoming barriers to screenings that health care reform will not address.

Preston says that his research will explore “the impact of health care reform” on improving screenings among groups where disparities exist, “but also examine barriers that need to be addressed to close the disparities gap.”

Health care reform is not a “fix-all” for the persistent barriers and disparities in colorectal screenings in minority and under-served populations in Arkansas, Preston explained. Unavailability of health screening services in some parts of the state, lack of transportation and stigma about getting a screening are among the primary obstacles.

Preston has worked for Cancer Control for five years, two of which he has been its director. The program is the outreach arm of the Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute, which primarily serves low-income and medically under-served individuals across Arkansas through the provision of education and screenings for breast, prostate, colorectal, and other cancers.

Preston, who earned his MPH from the UAMS College of Public Health and is a doctoral candidate in health systems research, is one of nine investigators nationally who received a grant from the PHSSR National Coordinating Center in the sixth round of its Junior Investigator Awards. His research mentor is Glen Mays, former chair of the COPH Department of Health Policy and Management who is now co-principal investigator of the National Coordinating Center, director of the Public Health Practice-Based Research Networks (PBRN) and is the F. Douglas Scutchfield Endowed Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health.

The purpose of the Junior Investigator Awards program is to generate knowledge and train new researchers in the field of PHSSR, which focuses on the organization, financing and delivery of public health services. The awards are made possible through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and create opportunities for upcoming researchers to be mentored by experts in PHSSR.

“We are beginning to see the results of our earlier rounds of Junior Investigator Awards,” said F. Douglas Scutchfield, M.D., director of the National Coordinating Center for PHSSR. “Our junior investigators are growing into senior investigators and leaders in public health research generally, and PHSSR specifically.”