Highlighting Black CRC Researchers Ft. Dr. Fola May

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Resources and Research Blog
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Dr. May is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and a staff physician in Gastroenterology in the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System. 

Dr. May also serves on the Fight CRC Medical Advisory Board and Health Equity Committee.

What colorectal cancer research activities are you currently leading or involved in? 

I am an epidemiologist and health services researcher in the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity at UCLA. I perform research in academic health centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and the Veterans Health Administration to improve preventive health strategies, increase access to preventive services, and eliminate health disparities. Given the disproportionate impact of CRC on low-income and ethnic/racial minority communities, many of our research projects aim to increase awareness about CRC risk and screening in medically underserved communities. This work includes funded quantitative, qualitative, and implementation science programs aimed to address CRC disparities in screening and outcomes.

How can your work inspire others in the community?

Patients/community: empowers them to take their health into their own hands and participate in life-saving screening.

Providers: continuously emphasize the importance of screening, especially among racial/ethnic minorities. Provider recommendation for screening is the number one motivator for patients to get screened, so providers really need to champion this for their patients.

Researchers: There are so few Black researchers, so I feel it is important to talk about my career and my work to motivate others to pursue this career path. It is not an easy career but one that is beyond rewarding!

Who are the other exemplary Black researchers leading your field of study?

Early career: Rachel Issaka (member of Fight CRC’s Health Equity Committee!)

Mid-career: Rotonya Carr

Late career: Juanita Merchant, Jonathan Carethers

Why is it important to recognize Black leadership and excellence in research? 

We are extremely rare. And the work that we do around health equity is not celebrated as much and as often as it should be in America.

Recognizing Black excellence in research is also critical to increase the number of URMs that pursue medicine and research careers. By doing this work and being visible leaders, we can encourage those coming up after us to go into science and medicine.

Seeing a Black person excel in science is believing that you can as well.

What advice do you have for minority researchers in their early career?

Keep your head up.

Don’t let others obstruct your path.

Don’t let others steal your motivation.

You are just as capable as everyone else, even with people are telling you otherwise.

Anything you would like the patient community to know about your research?

Our work is so central to the patient experience. Many of us have patients and survivors directly involved in the research that we do. And for this we are very grateful.

I encourage patients and survivors to work with researchers. By sharing your story and experience, you have so much power to influence patients to get screened.