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Vanessa B. Sheppard named Massey's associate director for disparities research

Vanessa Sheppard, Ph.D.

VCU Massey Cancer Center welcomes Vanessa B. Sheppard, Ph.D., as the associate director for disparities research. At Massey she will also serve as co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control program. She joined the VCU School of Medicine in September 2016 as chair of and professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Policy.

As the inaugural associate director for disparities research at Massey, Sheppard will serve on the cancer center’s Executive Committee and will lead Massey’s efforts to advance high-priority disparities and minority health research across its various research programs and themes. Cancer disparities research explores why some groups of people may be more likely than other groups of people to develop cancer, experience cancer-related health problems or die from cancer. Sheppard will develop and facilitate a disparities work group and collaborate with other cancer center leaders to foster transdisciplinary science focused on the biological, clinical and social determinants of cancer disparities.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Sheppard to Massey to guide our disparities research activities,” said Gordon D. Ginder, M.D., director of VCU Massey Cancer Center. “Her dedication to and scholarship in health disparities research, teaching and service will help Massey to build on our strong foundation of science and outreach in this field, make progress against cancer health inequities and ultimately improve the lives of those we serve.”

“I am pleased to join Massey Cancer Center, where there is a commitment to address disparities in racial and ethnic minorities and medically underserved individuals – a commitment that is also shared by Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health System – and where there is burgeoning research and outreach efforts addressing cancer disparities,” Sheppard said. “This leadership role offers me the opportunity to foster my passion of reducing health inequities and to broaden my own research agenda to achieve greater impact. I look forward to working with Massey colleagues, patients and community members to foster more and deeper collaborations toward the alleviation of cancer disparities.”

With expertise in health services research, clinical trials and behavioral interventions, Sheppard aims to address gaps in care for African-American, African immigrant and Latina populations. Her research focuses on factors that have potential to improve cancer outcomes, such as treatment adherence, patient-provider relationships, obesity and physical activity. She led a research team that was the first to develop and test decision support and lifestyle interventions for African-American and Latina women.

Recognized by the National Institute of Health as a Disparities Scholar, Sheppard has published several books and numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals. Her research has been supported through funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and others. She is a member of study sections at the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.

Sheppard is a recipient of the Dr. Herbert W. Nickens Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges and an Outstanding Research Achievement Award from Georgetown University Medical Center. Recently, she received the Torch Bearer award from the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association as recognition of her community-academic collaborations.

Prior to joining VCU, Sheppard was a tenured associate professor in the Department of Oncology and assistant director of health disparities research at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University.

Sheppard received a bachelor’s degree in public administration and political science from James Madison University, a master’s degree in urban affairs from Norfolk State University and a Ph.D. in health services research from Old Dominion University. She completed post-doctoral fellowships at Eastern Virginia Medical School and the Association of American Medical Colleges through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Written by: Jenny Owen

Posted on: December 20, 2016