Q&A with Faculty Scholar Bettina Drake

October 31, 2017

Institute for Public Health Faculty Scholar Bettina Drake is an associate professor, Division of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, whose research focuses on identifying preventive strategies to reduce cancer disparities.

Associate Professor, Division of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine

The objectives of her research program are: 1) to identify the modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for cancer as well as the at-risk groups for these factors; 2) to utilize community-based approaches to design, implement and disseminate research information; and 3) to promote education and awareness of research and research participation in minority communities.

We recently checked in with Dr. Drake to see what she’s currently working on.

Q: Tell us about any public health research you’re currently doing, and anything your planning for 2018.

Currently, I am PI of two DOD funded studies through their Prostate Cancer Research Program. One is a Health Disparities Research Award focused on identifying disparities in prostate cancer outcomes using data from the VA Central Cancer Registry and the VA Medical Center. The second is part of the multi-site Prostate Cancer Biorepository Network. The Washington University site collects and annotates prostate cancer biospecimens including long-term follow-up on clinical, sociodemographic, and nutritional data.

Q: What are some of your work highlights or favorite projects?

I serve on the leadership team of the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) and co-lead the Prostate Cancer Community Partnership (PCCP) along with Dewey Helms, a prostate cancer survivor. The PCCP promotes prostate cancer education outreach and screening among high-risk men. I’ve enjoyed working with the PCCP community partners including The Empowerment Network and Lane Tabernacle CME Church Health Ministry. Each year they partner with local community organizations to provide prostate cancer education and have provided hundreds of free PSA screenings to high-risk populations in the STL metropolitan area. In addition, I have worked with the group to secure funding for multiple research projects (epidemiology and community-based) as well as funding for continued community outreach.

Recently, leaders in cancer research provided testimony to the DOD Metastatic Cancer Research Task Force to discuss how best to address the growing problem of quality of life and risk of mortality among individuals diagnosed with metastatic disease. I was invited to provide recommendations based on my epidemiology expertise and community-based experiences to the DOD Metastatic Cancer Research Task Force on identification of gaps in the literature and recommendations for future research in metastatic prostate cancer.

Q: Has any of your recent work involved collaboration with other faculty scholars or community partners from other areas of expertise?  If so, how has this multi-disciplinary approach impacted your process/findings?

As a cancer epidemiologist who integrates community-based approaches, my work involves collaborations with clinicians, as well as community members including cancer survivors. These collaborations have greatly increased the translational application of my work.