University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Nynikka Palmer, DrPH, MPH Receives K-Award

By Susan Davis | | February 26, 2018

Nynikka Palmer, DrPH, MPH Receives K-Award

Nynikka Palmer, DrPH, MPH holds the Helen Diller Family Chair in Community Education and Outreach for Urologic Cancer, UCSF.

Prostate cancer imposes a disproportionate burden on African American men. This population has a 63% higher incidence rate than white men, and they tend to be diagnosed with more aggressive disease and report more side effects from treatment. They also die at twice the rate as white men.

Part of the problem is disparities in treatment. African American men are often either under treated (which means they don’t receive sufficient treatment) or over treated (which can result in serious side effects that affect their quality of life). These disparities are amplified among African American men who are low-income, many of whom have low health literacy and receive care in low resource “safety net” settings, as opposed to comprehensive cancer centers.

Nynikka Palmer, DrPH, sees these disparities in treatment and survivorship as being fundamentally rooted in disparities in health communication. To establish more parity, Palmer -- an assistant professor with a primary appointment in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG) and secondary appointments in Urology and Radiation Oncology -- is developing a novel peer mentoring program to help get the patients the information they need in a form they can use. Her experience and commitment were recognized in October when it was announced that she had received an NCI K-Award to support her work.

“We understand the importance of this research,” says Peter R. Carroll, MD, MPH Professor and Chair, Department of Urology. “We remain committed to long-term support to increase patient empowerment and provide high quality of care for all people with urologic conditions.”

“I want to eliminate disparities”

Palmer has been focusing on cancer communication and cancer disparities in underserved communities since working on her master’s degree in public health at Emory University. She continued that work while earning her doctorate in public health (University of Texas at Houston) and doing her post-doctoral work at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Her current research focuses on pairing African American prostate cancer survivors with newly diagnosed African American patients to help them navigate not only the healthcare system, but also treatment decision-making.

“I don’t mean getting from place to place in the building,” Palmer explains, “but actually navigating the whole healthcare process, from screening to diagnosis and a resolution.” Such peer navigation has already been implemented and studied for breast cancer patients. Palmer is likely the first to propose such a program for African American prostate cancer patients.