The Positive Feedback Loop

Medical mission work and a return to U of M

Dr. Gilman and a patient in Cartagena, Colombia.

Dr. Gilman and a patient in Cartagena, Colombia.

My first medical mission trip in 1998 was one of those absolutely life altering experiences.

I had been interested in this work for some time and was approached by a friend who needed an additional surgeon for a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Working during that first trip, I really felt as if it gave me the opportunity to practice what we do as surgeons and physicians in the purest possible way. There are no other considerations but to offer our expertise to the people we see.

I’ve continued to visit this same hospital each year for 15 years, now leading an annual mission for pediatric reconstructive plastic surgery.  I am convinced that any volunteer participating in a medical mission would describe themselves asgetting more out of the experience than they Continue reading

U-M nurse anesthetist leads medical relief trip in Kenya with U-M and Henry Ford health systems

As a nurse anesthetist at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, as well as Henry Ford Health System, Elizabeth Studley closely monitors patients each day to make sure they are safe, comfortable and relaxed. But Studley’s commitment to helping others extends beyond hospital walls.

Kenya Relief medical team from U-M Health System Henry Ford Health System

The U-M Health System and Henry Ford Health System will send a total of 23 medical staff to Kenya this week to offer much-needed medical relief to local residents.

For the last five years, she has led a team of surgeons and other health care providers from both HFHS and the UMHS to provide care to people in Kenya.

This week, she will again travel to the East African country with 23 surgeons, anesthesia providers, nurses, surgical technicians and pharmacists who will offer lifesaving medical relief in a region with scarce access to health care. The volunteers will provide care to people in local communities, many who travel for miles to see a physician for the first time in their lives. The team expects to see 450-600 patients and perform 50-80 surgeries—ranging from general surgery and dentistry to pediatrics and ear, nose and throat procedures—in just three days. Studley’s team is the largest of 21 groups who volunteer with KenyaRelief.Org.

As she prepares for the trip on Thursday, Studley answered some questions about why she’s so dedicated to this work. Continue reading

The Impact of Cancer on Minorities

Although cancer deaths have declined for both whites and African-Americans living in the United States, African-Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden for each of the most common types of cancer.

April is National Minority Health Month, so we thought that this would be a great time to discuss the impact of cancer on minorities in the United States and what the University of Michigan is doing to address this problem of minorities and cancer health disparities.

Minorities and Cancer Disparities

According to the National Cancer Institute, “cancer health disparities” are defined as “differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of cancer and related adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.”

Complex and interrelated factors contribute to the observed disparities in cancer incidence and death among racial, ethnic and underserved groups. The most obvious factors are associated with a lack of health care coverage and low socioeconomic status. Although cancer deaths have declined for both whites and African-Americans living in the United States, African-Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden for each of the most common types of cancer.

Other examples of the impact of cancer on minorities include:

  • African-American males have the highest incidence and mortality rates for colon, prostate and lung cancers.
  • Cervical cancer incidence is the highest among Hispanic/Latina women when compared to all other ethnic groups.
  • Liver cancer, usually caused by exposure to the hepatitis B virus, disproportionately affects Asian-Americans.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to have the poorest survival from “all cancers combined” than any other racial group.
  • Poor people are at greater risk of being diagnosed and treated for cancer at late stages of disease.


Research studies, including many performed by University of Michigan investigators such as Lisa Newman, Arden Morris, Christopher Sonnenday and Ken Resnicow, continue to document persistent and significant disparities in access to health care and disease outcomes. Often times, researchers are looking into the impact of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, geography and socioeconomic status on cancer risk, screening or outcomes. The Cancer Center has a health disparities work group that meets quarterly to collaborate, present their work and share research findings.

Learn more about cancer and disparities among minorities

Other areas of interest include:

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Steps of hope: Join a cancer awareness walk

It’s the time of year when people begin training for cancer awareness walks. We put together the top three reasons our patients have chosen to direct their passion toward participating in these good causes. No matter which charity you choose to support, you’re likely to gain.

Check out the full story or a list of links to register for local walks.