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Improving Health Outcomes for Women of Color

June 10, 2021
by Colin Poitras

One of Michelle Sodipo’s long-term career goals is to improve health outcomes for women of color who are diagnosed with cancer.

Sodipo said her studies in cancer epidemiology and an internship with the American Cancer Society (ACS) last summer raised her awareness of the many challenges women of color face when dealing with cancer. She was both surprised and disappointed by the limited amount of research that has been done to help these women deal with cancer through the development of targeted interventions.

“That was a bit difficult for me as a Black woman,” said Sodipo, who graduated from the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) last month with an M.P.H. degree in chronic disease epidemiology. “I really want to work toward figuring out how to minimize and remove health disparities for women of color who have to face cancer, because most of them are at a higher risk for dying if they’re diagnosed.”

During her ACS internship, Sodipo got to apply the data-analytics skills she learned at YSPH while working on a study led by Senior Research Scientist Brenda Cartmel.

“I really enjoyed the experience,” said Sodipo. “I was doing quantitative analysis, which is right up my alley. I think a lot of my classes at Yale helped prepare me, and I was able to jump right in.”

Sodipo said the YSPH donor scholarship that supported her internship was a huge relief that eased a lot of the logistical stress.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sodipo had to leave her on-campus housing and move in with friends off campus. The scholarship money helped her contribute to the rent without taking on a part-time job that might expose her to COVID-19, something she was trying to avoid in order to protect a roommate who is immunocompromised.

“Getting the scholarship funding was super helpful,” said Sodipo. “It was more of a relief than anything, just having all those worries addressed so I could focus.”

Sodipo used her internship experience to support her M.P.H. thesis focusing on a descriptive epidemiological analysis of endometrial cancer survivors. She is particularly interested in the physical and mental health challenges survivors face, and potential interventions that could support them during and after treatment.

“I hope that I will be able to continue to conduct epidemiological research focused on gynecological cancers,” Sodipo said. “I want to research health disparities seen in historically disadvantaged populations of color that have higher rates of female reproductive cancers.”

During her time at YSPH, Sodipo also served as co-chair of the Emerging Majority Students Association, mentored new students as a department student representative, and led a course in foundations of epidemiology for first-year M.P.H. students as a student teaching fellow.

Individuals interested in supporting student scholarship and internships at the Yale School of Public Health, can do so by visiting the School’s giving website (www.yale.edu/givesph) and designating their desired gift amount to the Public Health Alumni Fund – Financial Aid. Or contact Cornelia Evans, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs at cornelia.evans@yale.edu.

Submitted by Ivette Aquilino on June 08, 2021