Marvella Elizabeth Ford Ph.D

Dr. Marvella Ford

Professor

Associate Director of Population Sciences and Cancer Disparities, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center

SmartState Endowed Chair in Prostate Cancer Disparities, South Carolina State University

Department: Public Health Sciences

Programs: Inflammation, End Organ Disease

Research Interests:

Dr. Ford received her MSW, MS, Ph.D., and postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI where she was awarded pre- and post-doctoral fellowships from the National Institute on Aging. Subsequently, she held faculty positions at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI, and Baylor College of Medicine before coming to MUSC and the Hollings Cancer Center. Her training in the social determinants of health affecting disease and its treatment has uniquely positioned her to take a leading role in tackling a distressing and incompletely understood public health problem in the state: the fact that societal differences in the population can lead to markedly different health outcomes for members of diverse racial and ethnic groups.

An overarching goal of Dr. Ford's current research is to identify and address the disparities in cancer diagnosis and treatment success due to race, geography, and other contextual and/or socioeconomic factors. To that end, she is the leader on several projects examining behavioral and community engagement factors affecting resource utilization, access to care and clinical trial recruitment, and retention of members of underserved populations in the state. Understanding of these factors in turn informs her other efforts to help design and disseminate effective strategies for enhancing patient education and decision making between underserved patients and their care providers.

Dr. Ford recently completed an NCI R21 study with Drs. Jane Zapka and Katie Sterba titled “Optimizing Survivorship and Surveillance after Treatment for Colorectal Cancer.” This study examined the role of personal, provider, and practice-level factors on CRC survivor care surveillance experiences and outcomes. A telephone survey, informed by the Chronic Care Model, was conducted over a 1-year period with 150 CRC survivors identified via the South Carolina Central Cancer Registry. This was one of the first studies to evaluate CRC surveillance in a socioeconomically diverse sample. The only associations found among the examined factors and adherence were related to type of health insurance coverage. Participants with private/HMO health insurance were significantly more likely than participants with "other" health insurance coverage types (i.e., none, Medicare without supplement, Medicare with supplement) to be adherent to the 13-month colonoscopy. Therefore, future education strategies and patient navigation interventions could focus on identifying and overcoming multi-level barriers to CRC surveillance services.

Dr. Ford is co-leading an NCI P20 Cancer Disparities SPORE grant proposal team with MPI Dr. Zihai Li. The overarching goal of the SPORE is to strengthen and extend population-based immunologic cancer disparities-focused colorectal cancer (CRC) research strategies at the partnering institutions (MUSC, Ohio State University, and Emory University). The two research themes are 1) to evaluate tumor-associated immune response as a potential contributor to CRC cancer disparities and 2) to focus on CRC in the African American Sea Island/Gullah population.

In her other research projects, Dr. Ford applies her public health expertise towards the definition of population-specific and innate genetic, metabolic and physiologic factors that determine cancer diagnosis, progression, and treatment outcomes. Working with Dr. David P. Turner, these latter studies include the study of a specific set of inflammatory nutritional metabolites known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Exploring the linkage between population-specific and differential AGE levels as a possible contributor to disparate outcomes is a focal point of the translational NIH/NCI-funded U54 Cancer Disparities Research Center (SC CADRE) co-led by Dr. Ford at MUSC and by Dr. Judith D. Salley at South Carolina State University.

Publications:

PubMed Collection