The College Welcomes New Faculty Member Michelle Williams - Whose Mission Is to End Preventable Cancers Through Increased Awareness

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February is Cancer Prevention Month and an opportunity to welcome Michelle Williams, assistant professor in the Department of Global and Community Health.

For Michelle Williams, PhD every month is Cancer Prevention Month.  Williams joined the Mason faculty in August 2020, and brings deep experience in developing culturally appropriate interventions for cancer prevention, mixed-method research, and a rich history of service in the field of breast and cervical cancer prevention.

Williams’ research is focused on improving the cancer outcomes of African American women living in the Deep South. Williams’ Survivor Heart Study looks at factors that affect higher rates of heart disease in African American breast cancer survivors than in their white counterparts. One of the goals of the study is to increase awareness among African American breast cancer survivors that they have a higher likelihood of heart disease.

Dr. Michelle Williams Cancer Prevention

As part of the Survivor Heart Study, Williams is currently launching a case-control study of African American women with and without breast cancer to compare cardiovascular disease risk factors.  Study participants will receive a kit in the mail to measure subjects’ physical fitness, blood pressure, weight, glucose, and cholesterol using the provided tablet and equipment. Due to COVID restrictions on human subject research, Williams had to be creative in formulating the study – however she is optimistic that the approach will actually increase participation in health research studies in the future. “People in rural populations are often excluded from clinical studies because they do not live near a large research university and they may not be able to travel. Now rural populations can more easily participate in this important research.”

Williams emphasizes that many cancers are preventable with proper screening and would like to see more interventions to decrease the disparities in late-stage cancers. “Some cancer deaths are preventable and unnecessary,” says Williams. “Access issues – such as cost and travel – along with awareness and engagement play a role in the disparities.”

She cites her talented team of Masters, PhD, and undergraduate students as immensely helpful in carrying out her research. Williams values the opportunity to “train the next generation” of researchers. Research assistants include: Amarachukwu Orji (PhD Student), Precious Ugwu (Masters student), Kolachi Oparanozie (undergraduate OSCAR student), Yasmin Fenaoui: (undergraduate OSCAR student), and Zhilan Mustafa (undergraduate OSCAR student).