During Black History Month, a new generation of scientists share how research pioneer and celebrated mentor Dr. Olufunmilayo I. Olopade inspires the work they do to help patients everywhere.
Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, MD, MBBS, FACP, FASCO has dedicated her career to addressing disparities in cancer risks that disproportionately affect young women of African descent and people with BRCA1 gene mutations.
“As the burden of cancer continues to rise across nations, I have become an advocate for global oncology,” says Dr. Olopade. “I strongly believe that leaders in our field must stand in solidarity, effect real change in research policy, promote education and cancer awareness, support women and minority investigators, include the voices of patient advocates, and stand side-by-side with the research community and patients around the world,” said Dr. Olopade.
Dr. Olopade is internationally recognized for her innovative breakthroughs in cancer risk reduction and breast cancer care. She has improved how doctors determine the environmental and genetic risk factors that predispose families to certain forms of breast cancer. Her discoveries have led to more personalized treatments for patients with breast cancer and continue to help people reduce their risk of inheriting the disease. Though celebrated for her discoveries, Dr. Olopade's contributions to cancer care go beyond the lab. For nearly three decades, she's used her platform as the director of the University of Chicago’s Training Program to help build a more diverse oncology workforce. Her dedication to both patients and peers inspires the researchers who follow in her footsteps.
"No barrier was ever too big for her to find a solution. She encouraged me to pursue my research ideas, opened doors to make that possible, and served as my mentor on key grants. I was grateful and honored to feel part of generations’ long gifts and traditions of mentoring." - Jane Churpek, MD, MS, a University of Chicago faculty member and 2011 YIA recipient
"She always challenges me to bring my interests back to the most important point—'How does what you are doing improve care for the patient in front of you?' This question has resonated throughout my oncology training. I have been grateful to learn in a diverse lab where representation and mentorship have been major priorities. Improving equity in biomedical science research is frankly one of the most obvious ways we can achieve wins for our colleagues, our patients, and our science." - Padma Rajagopal, MD, a University of Chicago faculty member and 2019 YIA recipient