By Tom Wilemon
President Joe Biden has appointed Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, to the National Cancer Advisory Board, where she will serve a six-year term and help guide federal initiatives that focus on cancer.
The board advises the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the director of the National Cancer Institute on strategies to address the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of cancers as well as continuing care and rehabilitation services for cancer patients and their families.
Winkfield is the executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, professor of Radiation Oncology and Ingram Professor of Cancer Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and professor of Medicine at Meharry Medical College.
“I am absolutely thrilled that President Biden has selected me to serve on the National Cancer Advisory Board,” Winkfield said. “This is such an honor because the board helps shape the activities of the National Cancer Program.
“For someone like me, who is focused on health equity and ensuring that everyone — regardless of their race, ethnicity, geographical location or socioeconomic background — has the same chance to survive cancer and survive it well, this is a golden opportunity. I am eager to bring my health equity lens to cancer programming at the national level.”
She joins Scott Hiebert, PhD, professor of Biochemistry and Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Cancer Research at Vanderbilt, on the 18-member board. Hiebert, the board’s acting chair, was appointed to his term by President Barack Obama in 2016. The six-year terms overlap.
Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC and director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, is an alumna of the board. She was appointed to her term by President George W. Bush in 2008.
“Serving on the National Cancer Advisory Board is a tremendous honor and responsibility, and Dr. Winkfield is an ideal choice.
“She is a highly accomplished physician-scientist and will bring her significant expertise in health equity, leadership skills, as well as energy and commitment to the board,” said Pietenpol, the Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development.
Winkfield received her bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University and her medical and PhD degrees from Duke University. She completed her residency training at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program in Boston.
Nationally, she is co-founder and director of the Association of Black Radiation Oncologists and served as chair of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Health Disparities Committee from 2016-2017. In 2016, she led a task force focused on improving racial/ethnic diversity in the oncologic workforce that culminated in the development of ASCO’s strategic plan for workforce diversity published in 2017 with Winkfield as lead author.
She was recruited to Vanderbilt and Meharry in 2020 from Wake Forest Baptist Health, where she served as associate director for Community Outreach and Engagement, and director of the Office of Cancer Health Equity at the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center.