ETSU Doctoral student organizes prostate cancer symposium

Michelle Reece, a doctoral student in the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, has organized a symposium next week at ETSU to help raise awareness of prostate cancer.

"Prostate Cancer: Let's Talk About It: A Systems Approach to the Problem" will be held Thursday, Sept. 12, from 9:45-11 a.m. in Room 105 of Lamb Hall. The symposium will feature representatives from four health organizations, with Reece serving as moderator, and the event will address a range of issues related to screening, treatment and outcomes. September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

The panel discussion is just the latest effort targeting prostate cancer by Reece, who is pursuing her doctorate in the ETSU Department of Community and Behavioral Health. Her research and scholarship has been published in International Journal of Public Health, Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, Journal of Cancer Education, Ethnicity and Disease and Clinical Pediatrics. Reece also published an essay this month in Tennessee Health and Wellness Magazine that advances the persistent debate on whether and when men should be screened for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in American men, Reece wrote. Despite that, national organizations that include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Physicians and the United States Preventive Services Task Force have discontinued their recommendations for widespread prostate cancer screening, Reece wrote. Men 50 and older are encouraged to talk about prostate cancer with their health care provider and make an informed decision about whether to screen for the cancer, Reece wrote.

Prostate cancer is more pervasive in minority populations, and Reece's academic publications have focused in particular on the disparities in screening and treatment for minority populations. In Tennessee, the death rate for prostate cancer for all men is 26 per 100,000, but the ratio for African American men is 37 deaths per 100,000.

A native of Barbados, Reece became passionate in her advocacy for prostate cancer education through family ties and her work as a research associate at the Center for Prevention Research at Tennessee State University.

"Prostate cancer was not on my radar, but when I started looking up the statistics, the background and the disparities that existed, I became interested," Reece said. "And I realized in talking with all the men in my family – my father, all my brothers – that they had no idea what I was talking about; that they didn't know the dangers of prostate cancer or the risks. I quickly got involved in a number of community outreach projects."

In addition to her research pursuits, Reece is a popular teacher in several undergraduate public health courses. She received her undergraduate degree from Andrews University in Michigan and then her master's degree in counseling psychology from Tennessee State. She has presented at several national conferences, including the annual conference held by the American Public Health Association (APHA) and most recently at the American Men's Studies Association Multidisciplinary Conference.

Reece's future took a turn at the 2010 APHA conference, in fact, when she was in the process of choosing a doctoral program. Reece knew little about ETSU, and the university was not among her choices. She met ETSU representatives at a College of Public Health nformational booth, however, and discussed all that the college had to offer.

"I was completely sold on the ETSU program," Reece said, "and it became my top choice."

For more information on "Prostate Cancer: Let's Talk About It," contact Reece at reecemc@goldmail.etsu.edu.

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