Public health researcher receives Pfizer Fellowship
Edith Williams of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health has been awarded the 2010 Pfizer Fellowship in Health Disparities.
Deputy director for research and sustainability at the Institute for Partnerships to Eliminate Health Disparities, Williams also is a research assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
The Pfizer award, which carries a stipend of $130,000 over two years, is designed to support the career development of talented junior researchers. The fellowship awards program is open to researchers in U.S. schools of medicine and public health, nursing and pharmacy schools, and colleges of osteopathic medicine.
Williams’ study will focus on an intervention to reduce the psychosocial and biological indicators of stress in African-American lupus patients. She will collaborate with the Medical University of South Carolina's Lupus Erythematosus Clinical Research Group.
“Patients with lupus and other autoimmune diseases are encouraged to avoid stress in their lives,” she said. “Stressful situations can exacerbate lupus outbreaks and the debilitating impacts of the illness.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that African-American women are three times more likely to get lupus than white women. They also tend to develop lupus at a younger age and have more severe symptoms than whites.
Tom Chandler, dean of the Arnold School, said Williams’ selection for the Pfizer Fellowship underscores the ability of the school’s faculty to compete with the nation's top researchers.
“Since joining our faculty in 2007, Edith Williams has worked to develop a strong research program in health disparities,” Chandler said. “Her scholarship in this vital area of public health research is nationally recognized. We congratulate Dr. Williams on this outstanding award, which also recognizes the Arnold School’s growing reputation as a leader in health disparities research.”
Williams said the Pfizer Fellowship will enable her to focus her research efforts on lupus.
“This is an important area of study for me,” she said. “It also is significant because it can open doors to conducting large-scale studies in the Southeast on lupus in African-American women, something that has not been done before.”
Before coming to the Arnold School, Williams had a key role in the Buffalo Lupus Project. The five-year, community-based participatory study examined asthma and autoimmune diseases in minorities in the Buffalo area. Funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the project explored the high risk of infection among African Americans from environmental toxic pollutants.
Williams also led an ancillary investigation of pre-clinical heart disease, inflammation and traditional risk factors in the largely African- American cohort of women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) from the Buffalo Lupus Project.
At the Institute for Partnerships to Eliminate Health Disparities, Williams is involved in developing a research program on minority women’s health. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in biology, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the State University of New York.