Behind the Breakthroughs
The Your Stories Podcast

Hear candid conversations between people conquering cancer – patients, their family and friends, and doctors and researchers working to help us all.

Dr. Karen Winkfield
Behind the Breakthroughs
Implementing Change
Black patients in the U.S. have the highest death rate of any racial or ethnic group.

Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, the Executive Director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, a strategic partnership between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, talks to Don Dizon, MD, about why, and most importantly, what is being done to reverse this disparity.

Though this conversation is centered around Black patients, it addresses the uncomfortable truths people from underrepresented, excluded, and disenfranchised communities often face when trying to maintain good health and seeking medical care.


  • Why cancer risks are higher and survival rates are lower for Black people 
  • A breakdown of the systemic barriers limiting accessible healthcare  
  • Solutions for improving representation in cancer research and care 
  • How and where change is happening 
  • What work remains to make health care more equitable    

“We've got to be clear," says Dr. Winkfield. "There are barriers built into the system that prevent Black Americans from accessing healthcare at the point where they potentially could have improved outcomes."

Cultural Humility

There is no training video, mission statement, or policy on diversity that can erase the bias patients of color face when seeking care.  

Though acknowledging the problems represents progress, it's “cultural humility” - understanding patients and the communities in which they live - that Dr. Winkfield challenges everyone to achieve. 

In her work to erase health inequities, she describes cultural humility as “saying to this person sitting in front of you, ‘I may not know you that well, but I'm interested. Help me understand your perspective, help me understand the things that you value.’ And frankly, if we do that to each and every person and with each and every person, it does not matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity or what their race or ethnicity is.” 

What does matter, however, are the centuries of a race-based system.  

“We know early detection is key. We know that screening and prevention is the way to go in early detection. But we're even struggling with getting people there because of the systemic barriers,” said Dr. Winkfield. 


The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. The podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. It is no substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests who speak in a podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. Neither Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundations, nor any of its affiliates endorses, supports, or opposes any treatment option or other matter discussed in a podcast. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy on a podcast should not be construed as an endorsement.
Your Stories
A Conversation About Race in Cancer Care

Dr. Karen Winkfield and Dr. Don Dizon are two of the country’s foremost leaders in advancing health equity. During Black History Month, they offer a candid discussion on why cancer risks are higher and survival rates are lower for Black people, while addressing the disparities facing all patients from underrepresented, excluded, and disenfranchised communities.