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Cooper Named MacArthur Fellow

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Lisa A. Cooper, a professor in general internal medicine and  epidemiologist

Lisa A. Cooper, a professor in general internal medicine and epidemiologist, who conducts landmark studies designed to understand and overcome racial and ethnic disparities in medical care and research, has been named a 2007 fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The fellowship comes with a $500,000 “genius grant” that can be used without stipulations or reporting requirements.

Thus far, Cooper’s work has focused exclusively on doctor and patient relationships in the United States. When asked what she plans to do with the grant money, she answered that she hopes to extend her focus to individuals in economically or socially disadvantaged communities throughout the world. Edward Miller, dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, called her work “absolutely critical to academic medicine’s mission of delivering the benefits and advances in health care to all who need them.”

Born in Liberia, the daughter of a surgeon and a research librarian, Cooper lived in Africa until she was 14, went to high school in Switzerland and came to the United States for college and medical school. She became interested in how people of different cultures relate to each other, but says she never intended to build a career around that. “Then I came to America and realized there were all these interesting interracial dynamics.”

One of her first published studies showed that minorities, women and older people are more likely to be treated for depression by a primary care physician because they feel there is better communication. She chose to continue her research with minorities.

Cooper is currently the lead researcher of two randomized controlled trials. One explores whether teaching communication skills to doctors and patients with hypertension affects patient adherence to treatment. The other investigates the effects of teaching doctors and care managers how to deliver culturally tailored and patient-centered care to African-American patients with depression.

—Mary Ellen Miller

 

 

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