When you hear the name of acclaimed African-American writer Maya Angelou, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Her best-selling autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she read at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration ceremony in 1993? Now that Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., has established the Maya Angelou Research Center on Minority Health, her name will soon be associated with the national initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities as well.

Angelou, who is the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, serves on the steering committee for the new research center, which is intended as a model that can be replicated in other communities across the nation. Other internationally known minority leaders who serve on the center’s national advisory board include Coretta Scott King, the Honorable Andrew Young and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.

Established through a $500,000 grant from The Duke Endowment and an $80,000 grant from The Winston-Salem Foundation, the Maya Angelou Center’s mission is to enhance wellness, improve quality of life and reduce the burden of disease in underrepresented minorities through education and research that can be translated into effective health care approaches. One of the center’s key goals is to increase the representation of people of color in the biomedical research community–as study participants, researchers and practitioners–so that doctors can learn more about the prevention and treatment of diseases that disproportionately affect minority groups.

The Angelou Center will also form partnerships with the local community and with Winston-Salem State University, a historically black school, to develop a nationally recognized model for addressing minority health disparities. Other critical items on the center’s agenda include the creation of programs in underrepresented minority health education, and the career enhancement of underrepresented minority researchers, educators, clinicians and leaders.
 

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