Erika T. Brown, PhD, dean of faculty affairs at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, recently received The Difference Maker Award from the James M. Dixon Foundation, a charitable organization established to provide assistance to people living with Alzheimer's disease, related dementias, and their caregivers/partners.
As part of its mission the foundation also supports and recognizes outstanding contributions made by individuals to advance the health and well-being of those struggling to cope with severe illness in their communities. Brown was one of ten leaders honored at a special event held in Atlanta, GA in August to benefit Morehouse School of Medicine and the Alzheimer’s community. She was recognized for her “significant involvement in minority health disparities and research, and her commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion focused initiatives.”
“I felt really honored—in Atlanta there are so many people that are doing outstanding things in the community, as well as professionally,” says Brown. “For that group to actually acknowledge what I’ve done made me feel very privileged and humbled.”
Brown began her career in academic medicine as a researcher, studying the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and DNA repair pathways in breast cancer. In 2010, her aunt, who had long worked as a public health advocate, died from triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that is typically diagnosed in women of color. Brown felt the loss profoundly and began giving talks about the disease and doing other outreach activities, including working with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, to help inform the public about breast cancer.
“I wanted to ensure that individuals in the community who did not have a scientific background felt informed and empowered if they or a loved one were diagnosed with breast cancer,” she explains. “That way they would have the foundational knowledge needed to have a well-informed discussion with their physician about their options.”
Brown’s research has also focused on examining the differences of breast cancer variants in minority populations, particularly those with West African ancestry in the U.S. She has received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, has been a grant reviewer for both agencies, and has served on NIH study sections.
She is a member of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Faculty Affairs, having been a Steering Committee Member from 2018-2021, the AAMC Group on Diversity and Inclusion, and the AAMC Group on Women in Medicine and Science.
Brown’s honors and awards include being recognized by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Association for Cancer Research, and being a member of the Sigma Xi Scientific Honor Society. She has also received several honors in higher education and teaching. In 2020, Brown was featured in The Community of Scholars: 1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America. She was a fellow in the 2014-15 Class of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM®) Program for Women and served as a Learning Community Advisor and Faculty Facilitator for the ELAM® program.