Dr. Tomi Akinyemiju is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, with a faculty appointment in the UK Markey Cancer Center. Dr. Akinyemiju has advanced degrees and training in epidemiologic and translational research, and considerable experience in conducting prospective human subjects research. For instance, she is the PI of the NIH funded MEND study (Mechanisms for novel and established risk factors for breast cancer in women of African descent), which focuses on understanding the epidemiology of aggressive breast cancer, in particular the hormone-receptor negative subtypes prevalent among women of African descent in relation to metabolic dysregulation. She also has a solid background in the biological sciences, interdisciplinary training in global health and health disparities, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship focused on understanding the molecular aspects of breast cancer risk factors and prevention among African and African-American women. Her past research has examined racial disparities in breast cancer along the prevention continuum, highlighting the role of poverty and access to healthcare in cancer screening and survival. More recently, her research focused on examining molecular biomarkers for cancer which can better predict prognosis and help to elucidate the underlying biological/genetic mechanisms underlying breast cancer etiology and outcomes. Given that metabolic syndrome is highly prevalent among US adults, especially among African-Americans, is adversely associated with breast cancer prognosis, and induces significant changes in expression of key cancer-related genes, her current work is focused on identifying unique metabolic syndrome-related genetic signatures in breast cancer tumors. These may be useful clinically for identifying patients at high risk of relapse who may benefit from additional treatment for metabolic syndrome, and/or inform the development of specific drug targets for genes altered due to metabolic syndrome.
Dr. Akinyemiju also serves as Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence at the College of Public Health. In this role, she works to promote proper and fair treatment to all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, political belief, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Dr. Akinyemiju will work with faculty, staff and students within the College of Public Health and collaboratively with other units across the University to develop programs and strategies to: 1) promote a diverse, inclusive and equitable academic environment, 2) eliminate barriers to excellence that may disproportionately affect any group of individuals compared with others, and 3) encourage individual and collective action towards these goals at every level within the college.