Racial and ethnic minorities frequently encounter barriers when accessing health care, but radiation oncologist Karen Winkfield aims to change that, making it her mission to break down those barriers and become a champion for health equity for all.
Winkfield currently is an associate professor of radiation oncology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and director of the Office of Cancer Health Equity at Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center (WFBCCC). Prior to joining Wake Forest in August 2016, she was a radiation oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center.
Specializing in the use of radiation therapy in the treatment of hematologic malignancies, Winkfield developed the first comprehensive clinical program focused on hematologic malignancies in the Department of Radiation Oncology at MGH. With support of collaborating oncologists, she also established the first multidisciplinary clinic for patients diagnosed with hematologic disorders.
In addition to her research in radiation therapy, Winkfield also focuses on understanding and addressing sociocultural barriers that contribute to disparities in cancer outcomes. The goal of this research is to develop a platform for discussion that will enable accurate and timely dispersal of clinical information in the black community and encourage policymakers to invest in initiatives designed to address inequalities in the health care delivery system.
While at MGH, Winkfield was a co-principal investigator of a $3 million grant that established the Lazarex-MGH Cancer Care Equity Program. The goal of the program is to improve clinical trial access and enrollment in vulnerable populations. Winkfield was responsible for the community outreach and education component of the grant. She continues this work in her current role as associate director of cancer health equity at WFBCCC. By growing extramurally funded research focused on cancer health equity and strengthening outreach efforts in underserved communities, Winkfield aims to reduce cancer disparities in North Carolina and beyond by alleviating barriers to care across the cancer continuum.
As only the second black woman to graduate from the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke, Winkfield realized early in her career the importance of workforce diversity in addressing health inequities. While an MD/PhD student, Winkfield restarted the Duke chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association, which is still active today, and served as president of the Student National Medical Association.
Nationally, Winkfield is a co-founder and director of the Association of Black Radiation Oncologists and served as chair of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Health Disparities Committee from 2016 to 2017.
Education: Binghamton University; Duke University School of Medicine
Training: Duke University Medical Center; Harvard Radiation Oncology Program
Current Titles: Associate professor of radiation oncology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine; associate director for cancer health equity, director of the Office of Cancer Health Equity, Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center