UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Fall 2015 - Page 6

Mona Fouad, M.D., M.P.H. Isabel Scarinci, Ph.D., M.P.H. Senior Advisor to the Director Professor and Director, Division of Preventive Medicine Director, Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center OPENING DOORS, BREAKING THROUGH “You have to have a passion for what you do. I love my work, and every day I’m excited by the day ahead. Women should not be discouraged by thinking ‘I can’t do it’ because there are ways to find support.” 8 U A B Mona Fouad, M.D., M.P.H., has seen many changes during her nearly 25 years at UAB – especially for women. “When I first started, there were very few women, even in leadership positions,” she says. “At one time, all the Cancer Center’s associate directors and program leaders were men. [Center director] Dr. [Albert] LoBuglio saw that lack of diversity in our leadership, and he asked if I would co-lead the cancer prevention and control program with Dr. [Ed] Partridge. Since my first grant was from the Cancer Center, I thought that was a great opportunity.” Dr. Fouad began her career at UAB as a research fellow in the Division of Preventive Medicine, and today, she serves as director of that very division. Originally from Egypt, she came to the United States when her husband accepted a position in the UAB School of Engineering. Because she had always been more interested in prevention and wellness, one of Dr. Fouad’s first research projects focused on cardiovascular disease prevention among hourly workers in the city of Birmingham. Specifically, she was interested in high-risk populations such as firefighters, police officers, and street and sanitation employees. “The police and firefighters led a very stressful life, so they had high rates of smoking and high blood pressure,” Dr. Fouad says. “The majority of the street and sanitation employees were AfricanAmericans who had high rates of heart disease, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. They felt there was no importance or hope of how to manage their health. That’s how I became interested in minority populations and developing interventions to address these risk factors.” Health disparities research was a young field at the time, but one that was growing, particularly for those interested in cancer. Dr. Fouad began developing programs tailored to cancer prevention and control, and her mentor suggested she meet with Dr. Partridge, who was working on similar research projects in that area. “I attended one of his community meetings and then knocked on his door with an idea for a grant. The rest is history,” Dr. Fouad recalls. C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R Over the years, Dr. Fouad and her team have built the Cancer Center’s prevention and control research program into a robust and dynamic enterprise that generates millions of dollars in grant funding annually for UAB. The program has expanded across Alabama and Mississippi, and now through the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (of which Dr. Fouad is the founding and current director), UAB is not only eliminating health disparities among minority populations, but also training the next generation of minority and diverse faculty. “I’ve seen firsthand how diversity can lead to excellence,” Dr. Fouad says. “If you have a diverse group around the table, everyone brings their culture, opinions and experiences. That brings excellence to our research.” Dr. Fouad also serves as senior associate dean of diversity and inclusion for the UAB School of Medicine, and as part of that, she is tasked with encouraging more women and diverse students to enter academic medicine. “Some women are reluctant to enter the field because they worry how they’ll manage their career and family life,” she says. “We are looking at ways to help women develop the skills and confidence to achieve their career goals and become leaders.” Dr. Fouad recalls the sacrifices she herself made as a young mother raising two daughters while building a career. She spent many late nights working after putting her children to bed as well as bringing them to her office on the weekends. “You have to be organized and decide what your priorities are. You have to let some things go and accept that you cannot do everything by yourself,” she says. “You have to have a passion for what you do. I love my work, and every day I’m excited by the day ahead. Women should not be discour vV@