Cancer Researcher Receives Spirit of Service-Learning Award

Erin Kobetz-Kerman, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of epidemiology and public health, who is committed to ending health disparities among isolated and under-served patients, has been selected by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida and the Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year Coalition for the 2012 Spirit of Service-Learning Award in higher education.

“It is truly an honor to receive this award, given that the Peace Corps represents many of the same ideals that I aspire to in my own work, like building community capacity for sustainable change,” said Kobetz-Kerman.

The award, created to recognize and celebrate South Florida’s outstanding educators, recognizes Kobetz-Kerman, who also directs the Jay Weiss Center for Social Medicine and Health Equity and the Disparities and Community Outreach Core Resource at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, for preparing future physicians to work in medically underserved communities, instilling cultural competency and empowering patients.

“Your commitment to community, to your medical students and to building the next generation of informed, engaged medical practitioners is truly outstanding and much needed,” Emily Eisenhauer, president of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida, said about Kobetz-Kerman.

A champion for early cancer detection and prevention, Kobetz-Kerman joined the faculty of the Miller School in 2004. Soon after, she discovered an alarming rate of cervical cancer among women in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, leading her to develop a community-based research program to uncover and overcome the barriers that discouraged them from undergoing Pap tests that could help identify the disease in its earliest stages. Under her leadership, “Partners in Action” became the first funded campus/community partnership between Sylvester and organizations from South Florida’s Haitian community.

In 2010, Kobetz-Kerman helped establish the South Florida Center for Reducing Cancer Disparities (SUCCESS) with funding from a National Cancer Institute’s Community Networks Project. A year later, she received a grant from the Florida Bankhead Coley Team Science to implement colorectal cancer screening.

Kobetz-Kerman was chosen for the award from 18 nominees at five South Florida universities, including UM’s Laura Kohn-Wood, Ph.D., associate chair and associate professor of educational and psychological studies, Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies, and Scotney Evans, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational and psychological studies.

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