Monday, November 28, 2022

Professor receives scholar grant to continue cancer research for underserved communities

November 14, 2022
Photo by Aryanna Dorsey | The State News

Michigan State public health professor Todd Lucas is at the frontlines of the global war on cancer. Lucas’ research consists of recognizing how psychosocial aspects have negative effects on the health of a person, causing illnesses like cancer.

Lucas received the Health Equity Research Scholar Grant to fund his colorectal cancer research within underserved areas across Michigan. Emphasizing strategies to prevent cancer itself in the first place, he stresses cancer screening, the main protagonist in his research efforts.

“We're learning new things all the time and I'm professionally amazed about the new treatments that are coming out," Lucas said. "But when we think about cure for cancer, I think we also need to think about prevention. And you know in a lot of ways we already have the cure for cancer, right? If we have cancer early when treatments are most effective that's a cure.”

His work is based in areas in and around Detroit.

“So what can we do with what we know about health psychology to, quote-unquote move the needle when it comes to health disparities, and for me, that's meant things like cancer screening and it's work that I've tried to do in underserved areas like Flint and Detroit,” Lucas said.

Lucas said his motivation behind the research is his interest in it, but also, the practicality.

“If you take insights from psychological science, and you apply them to problems that need solutions, and you do that directly in an informed way, it's a really timely opportunity to do something that matters," Lucas said. "I saw an opportunity to do science that would make a difference.”

Mental health takes a toll on physical health. In this case, psychological aspects can potentially affect a person negatively so much as to cause a physical illness. 

Lucas said receiving the grant gave him a feeling of responsibility.

“Obviously, because we're given the opportunity to do something about cancer screening influenza in Detroit," Lucas said. "And that's kind of what we set out to do with, is to do research that matters.”

Lucas expressed a feeling of gratefulness to be able to have an influence on cancer research with help from the American Cancer Society.

“This feeling of responsibility to society has placed faith in us about the work that we're doing and the science that we're doing," Lucas said. "And it basically gives us the green light to go ahead and implement that work and do something so there's a feeling of responsibility there too. And not only to the American Cancer Society but especially to the communities that we're working with.”

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