The Accelerating Excellence In Translational Science (AXIS)Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science

Friday, March 25, 2011
CDU events newsletter

Charles Drew University is buzzing with talks, lectures, and visiting speakers addressing minority health disparities. In March and April, events engaged community members, faculty and students in discussion.

Our minds, our health

On March 22, Keith Norris, director of AXIS (Accelerating eXcellence In Translational Science) addressed an audience with his talk, “The Role of Thought in Health and Health Disparities”.
Dr. Norris said that how people mentally handle stress changes influences their overall well-being.
His discussion included the idea that health is more than the absence of illness, but a state of mind. Norris observed that the public health debate is often about bad or unhealthy behaviors. For example, the United States spends about $344 billion on healthcare costs for obesity. However, eating as a response to stress has been shown to have a positive mental effect, at least in the short term.
“We need to be thinking about how we, as health professionals, can impact thought,” Norris stated. He encouraged dialogue about the factors that condition thought—marginalization from society, institutionalized racism, low self worth, and loss of culture for example—many of which affect minority populations.
Norris closed the talk by asking the audience to ask themselves, “what can you do that is critical and effective?”

Challenges in addressing obesity

March 25, 2011 was CDU’s first annual Obesity Day. The day-long event featured experts in obesity research.
Dr. M. Roy Wilson, chairman of the CDU board of trustees, opened the event. “Obesity is a major problem,” he said. “It has so many contributing factors that addressing it takes innovative thinking and partnerships—not only with researchers but with local governments, businesses and restaurants.”
The first talk of the day was by Dr. Stanley Hsia who introduced the topic of obesity in minority populations. He explained that addressing the needs of obese patients will require education, better nutrition labeling, exercise, and community development.
“South Central Los Angeles has been called a food desert,” he stated, “but for the minority populations there it is not only an issue of access to healthy food, but of access to parks and safe spaces for exercise.”
Dr Barry Sears, founder of Zone Labs, an obesity research center, gave the second talk on inflammation, diet and obesity.
“There is a prejudice that obesity is caused by weakness of will,” Sears said. “But we actually see increased inflammation and an imbalance of the body’s chemicals.” He said that there are two main types of inflammation, ‘screaming pain’ from a damaged organ or tissue, and ‘silent pain’ from cellular inflammation. The danger from the second type of inflammation is that there is no perception of pain, but there is chronic damage to the body.
Talks continued throughout the day, including discussion about the future of obesity research, obesity and risk for cancer, the geography of obesity, and the neurobiology of self-control.