Charles Rogers, PhD, MPH
University of Minnesota
RISE Cohort 6
While growing up in a single parent household in rural North Carolina, I noticed that African-American men experienced pervasive disparities in disease, health outcomes, and access to health care compared to whites. As imperative, I noticed a number of my family members were developing and dying from chronic diseases. For instance, in the fall of 2009, my aunt was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer (CRC). Prior, I never even heard of CRC. For African Americans, I only heard prostate cancer was a concern for men and breast cancer a concern for women. Two years later--during the first summer of my PhD pursuit at Texas A&M University, I was selected as 1 of 8 scholars nationally to participate in the University of Michigan’s Summer Immersion Program in Health Disparities Research. Under the supervision of Chief Colorectal Surgeon Dr. Arden Morris, I assisted with survey research aiming to understand how nonclinical factors impact postsurgical outcomes and surgical care quality among African-American patients with CRC. After completion this intensive summer experience, I not only learned how vast the field of health disparities was; I also learned that African-American men were last among all racial/ethnic groups of both genders for age-adjusted CRC mortality rates and 5-year survival rates.
Even though CRC is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers, the aforementioned disparities among African-American men have not improved. Today, incidence and mortality rates among brothers are 27% and 52% higher, respectively, than among white men. This is unacceptable. Until this particular playing field of health becomes more even, I will continue to advance my knowledge and skills via elite programs like UCSF-RISE to be a leader in men’s health inequities who addresses the complex underpinnings of CRC disparities.