Physician and scientist Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade will present the 27th annual Sojourner Truth Lecture Feb. 28 in Galileo Hall at Harvey Mudd College. Her talk, “Closing the Knowledge Disparity Gap on Breast Cancer,” is free and open to the public.
Olopade is the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics and associate dean of Global Health at the University of Chicago. She also serves as director of the university’s Cancer Risk Clinic.
“The lectureship was established to honor Sojourner Truth, a former slave who, after emancipation, devoted her life to the abolitionist cause and the rights of women,” said Sheila Walker, chair of the The Claremont Colleges’ Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies. “Thus, the woman we select each year to be the Sojourner Truth Lecturer is one whose contributions to her field and society have been especially noteworthy, advancing in some way knowledge in the field of Africana Studies and serving the African diasporic community.”
An authority on cancer risk, prevention and treatment, Olopade has a special interest in women of African descent, who face a higher risk for ER-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that is resistant to hormone therapy. Her research focuses on the interactions between genetics and environment in the onset of breast cancer and on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in women at high risk.
She also works with government officials and drug companies across Africa to promote cancer education and treatment.
Listed in the Best Doctors in America, Olopade has held a number of leadership positions with the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer. In 2011, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Cancer Advisory Board. She currently serves on the national advisory board and the board of directors for the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Olopade is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Honors and awards she has received include an honorary degree from Princeton University, Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist and Exceptional Mentor Award, American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship.
She earned her medical degree from the University of Ibadan College of Medicine in Nigeria. She trained in internal medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and in oncology and cancer genetics at the Joint Section of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Chicago.
The Sojourner Truth Lectures honor the achievements and contributions of outstanding black women of African descent. Established in 1983, the lectureship was created and is administered by faculty in the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies. It is sponsored by five colleges—Scripps, Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer—and Claremont Graduate University. Past lectureship speakers have included Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis, Agnes Moreland Jackson and Mae Jemison.