John Shepherd, PhD, Awarded B.H. and Alice C. Beams Endowed Professorship to Study Breast Cancer

Related News Articles

headshot of john shepherd
John Shepherd, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and Adjunct Faculty member in JABSOM’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, was recently named an B.H. and Alice C. Beams Endowed Professor. The newly endowed cancer research professor will receive $60,000 over three years to expand knowledge about breast cancer control in the Hawaii and the US Affiliated Pacific Island Jurisdictions (USAPI)

“I want to reduce breast cancer mortality in Hawaiʻi, and the USAPI,” Shepherd said. “To do this, we propose to investigate the metrics hindering early detection programs, timely diagnoses, and treatment delivery and compliance.”

Using a fishbone analysis, Dr. Shepherd will focus on WHO’s Global Breast Cancer Initiative’s three pillars, which aim to reduce global breast cancer mortality by 2.5% annually.

PILLAR 1: Health promotion for early detection (Goal: 60% of invasive breast cancers are stage 1 or 2.)

PILLAR 2: Timely breast diagnostics (Goal: Evaluation, Imaging, tissue sampling, and pathology within 60 days)

PILLAR 3: Comprehensive breast cancer management (Goal: 80% undergo multimodality treatment without abandonment)

Shepherd says taking this message to Hawaiʻi and other areas in the Pacific is critical.

“According to the cancer registries serving the Pacific, we know that the percentage of invasive cancers diagnosed at stage three or higher is approximately 22% in Hawaiʻi, 50% for Guam, and 80% for other locations in the Pacific, compared to 9% in the contiguous United States,” Shepherd said. “Outside Hawaiʻi, Pillar 1’s goal has not been achieved even though Hawaiʻi’s rate is still elevated. The progress towards Pillars 2 and 3 goals and the specific metrics that drive the goal are unknown.”

“Dr. Shepherd’s proposal aligns with both JABSOM’s and UHCC’s missions by conducting research and translating discoveries into practice, establishing community partnerships, and fostering multidisciplinary collaboration,” said Interim Dean Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, who also leads the Pacific Regional Central Cancer Registry Program and has co-led, with Dr. Neal Palafox, the Pacific Regional Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, for more than two decades. Breast cancer remains one of the top causes of cancer in each USAPI jurisdiction, some of which have no mammography services available, and most of which face geographic and other barriers to screening or early detection of breast and other screenable cancers. “Dr. Palafox and I are excited for Dr. Shepherd and his team to join the USAPI efforts toward a cancer-free Pacific.”

Shepherd said he’ll use the endowment to cover essential expenses for the project, including travel for himself, students, and/or JABSOM Family Medicine and Community Health collaborators to meet with community leaders throughout Hawaiʻi and the USAPI, and supplies and materials that may be needed in the field.

If the WHO’s Global Breast Cancer Initiative is successful, millions of breast cancer deaths will be averted globally between 2020 and 2040.  

The B.H. and Alice C. Beams Endowed Professorship was started by Betty Mae Ling after her death in 2014. Betty Mae was a retired Aiea Elementary School kindergarten teacher and the daughter of Mrs. Alice C. Beams and stepdaughter of Mr. B.H. Beams. The endowment is to benefit cancer research at JABSOM in memory of her parents.