The University Record, May 21, 1996

Research grants on women's health awarded

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

The Michigan Initiative for Women's Health and the Office of the Vice President for Research have awarded research grants to four research teams focused on aspects of women's health. The grants are for up to $4,000.


Rosario Ceballo, assistant professor of psychology and of women's studies, will use the grant to explore the impact of infertility on various ethnic minority women from different social classes.

"Most participants in infertility studies are married, white, middle-class couples," according to Ceballo, when, in fact, older African American couples without high school degrees are more likely to experience infertility. She will examine stress, coping mechanisms and the influence of race and social class on women's responses to infertility.

Ceballo's colleagues are Elinor B. Rosenberg, clinical social worker at the University Center for the Child and Family, and Antonia Abbey, associate professor of community medicine at Wayne State University Medical School.


Penny F. Pierce, assistant professor of nursing and faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research, will study the decision-making processes, knowledge, beliefs and preferences of African American women concerning breast cancer treatment.

"Several studies indicate that offering white women breast cancer information and the chance to decide between cancer therapies reduces their depression and anxiety.

"To date, however, there are no studies of the decision-making behavior of African American women with breast cancer," Pierce says. "Studies of Black women's beliefs about other medical issues suggest that their concerns and beliefs about breast cancer may well be different.

"For instance, many Black women prefer to deal with the symptoms of menopause through stress reduction and non-prescription medications. They also are more likely to believe that cancer is probably incurable and that acknowledging the disease will increase stress and shorten one's life.

"Health care providers who understand that beliefs about breast cancer can differ will be able to offer more appropriate care," Pierce says.

Pierce's colleagues are Lisa Richardson of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, housed at the School of Public Health; Linda Scott, nursing graduate student; Denise Ballard, outreach program manager for the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service in Indiana and Michigan; and Archiline Franklin, director of Minority Health Education, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit Regional Office.


Joyce M. Richey, research investigator in the departments of Physiology and Internal Medicine, will conduct laboratory experiments to determine the relationship between high blood pressure, blood pressure medication, and vasculitis---deterioration of the endothelium (inner wall) of the arteries.

Richey also will explore whether a decline in estrogen in older females increases the risk of vasculitis and whether estrogen replacement can reduce the risk. Her colleagues are R. Clinton Webb, professor of physiology, and Pentti T. Jokelainen, associate professor of anatomy.


Dr. Marilyn A. Roubidoux, assistant professor of radiology, will review the clinical records and mammograms of Sioux women in the Indian Health Service Hospital in Rapid City, S. D., and mammograms from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. They also will gather data on breast cancer risk factors among Native American women.

"Previous studies indicate that Native American women have exceptionally low rates of breast cancer, but they also have the worst breast cancer survival rate of any group studied. We don't know if the cause is due to biology, genes or inadequate access to medical care," Roubidoux says.

Data on breast cancer among Native Americans is very sparse, she notes. Among white women, breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer. However, since mammography has only recently become available to this population, little is known about breast density among Native Americans.

"In light of their low breast cancer rates, they should have low density breasts. If our research finds otherwise, then our understanding of density as a risk factor is incomplete," Roubidoux says.

The researcher also will provide mammography and educational programs at the Rapid City Pow Wow in July.

Roubidoux's colleague is Judith S. Kaur, a medical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic and one of only three Native American oncologists in the United States.

MIWH is an interdisciplinary "think-tank" of medical, biological, behavioral and public policy researchers that stimulates, facilitates and coordinates research on women's health at U-M.