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WCM’s Onyinye Balogun, MD, and Melissa B. Davis, PhD, Appointed Ethnicity and Cancer Scholars for NYGC’s Polyethnic-1000 Initiative

New York, NY  ·  April 19, 2021
Polyethnic-1000 Ethnicity and Cancer Scholars Onyinye Balogun, MD, (l) and Melissa B. Davis, PhD.

The New York Genome Center (NYGC) is pleased to announce the appointments of Onyinye Balogun, MD, and Melissa B. Davis, PhD, esteemed health disparities researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine, as Ethnicity and Cancer Scholars for NYGC’s Polyethnic-1000 (P-1000) initiative.

Launched in 2018, P-1000 is a regional, multi-institutional research program aimed at addressing cancer care inequities in underserved populations. Participants in the P-1000 initiative include cancer clinicians and investigators representing all of the NYGC’s member institutions, including six of New York City’s NCI-Designated Cancer Centers. The initiative is overseen by the Genome Center Cancer Group, led by nationally recognized cancer experts Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus, MD, Senior Associate Core Member, NYGC, and Lewis Thomas University Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Charles Sawyers, MD, Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Chair, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

In their NYGC appointments, Drs. Balogun and Davis will provide oversight of the conduct and coordination of P-1000’s next phase of research activities, focused on seven multi-disciplinary projects, announced last fall, studying cancer genomics in patients belonging to ethnic minority populations and drawing on the diversity of patients being treated at health care institutions throughout the New York City. Drs. Balogun and Davis each serve as investigators on one of these projects and will continue in those roles in addition to their current appointments at Weill Cornell Medicine. As P-1000 Ethnicity and Cancer Scholars, they will serve as co-PIs on the overall P-1000 initiative; be part of its Steering Committee; participate in strategic decision-making for the program; lead the operational management of the initiative; and act as a liaison between the NYGC and collaborating institutions. In these activities, they will report to Samuel Aparicio, BM, BCh, PhD, FRCPath, FRSC, Senior Scientific Director of Cancer Genomics, NYGC.

Dr. Balogun is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, specializing in the treatment of breast and gynecologic malignancies. She is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Balogun initiated her residency training in Radiation Oncology at the University of Chicago and completed her final year at New York University. Her current research is focused on global and local cancer disparities in women’s health. She is a lead investigator on the P-1000 project, “Mechanisms of Endometrial Cancer Disparities in African Americans.” Among Dr. Balogun’s recent publications is as co-author of Disparities in Cancer Outcomes Due to COVID-19—A Tale of 2 Cities, published in JAMA Oncology in summer 2020.

Dr. Davis is Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of Surgery, and Scientific Director of the International Center for the Study of Breast Cancer Subtypes at Weill Cornell Medicine. She also holds adjunct faculty appointments in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA and in the Department of Population Health Sciences at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI. Dr. Davis received her PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Georgia. Following this, she completed Postdoctoral Fellowships in Functional Genomics and Systems Biology in Departments of Human Genetics at Yale School of Medicine and the University of Chicago, where she also trained at the U-Chicago Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities. Her current research interests are to unravel the multifocal contributions to cancer risk, disparities in clinical oncology outcomes and to link this information back to genetic ancestry, particularly Sub-Saharan West African ancestry. She is a co-PI on the P-1000 project, ““Molecular Links between Ancestry and Outcome Disparity in Breast and Prostate Cancer Patients Across the African Diaspora in New York City.” Among Dr. Davis’s recent publications is Genomics and Cancer Disparities: The Justice and Power of Inclusion, published in Cancer Discovery this spring.

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