Volume 37 No. 01
January 07


University to Benefit from
Tom Joyner Radio Campaign

President Awarded
Medal of Freedom

A Message from
President Norman Francis

Pharmacy Hires Latest in Alumni Faculty Members

Alum Battles the Racial Inequities of Breast Cancer

Cornel West is Speaker
for MLK Week of Peace


Xavier in the News


XU Wins UNCF President’s Cup

Xavier recently accepted the 2006 President’s Cup trophy for highest University
participation in the United Negro College Fund’s annual “UNCF Fund Run” held in October at Audubon Park in New Orleans.

More than 650 XU students, faculty and staff members participated in the event – raising $39,573. The friendly competition between the two New Orleans UNCF institutions, Xavier and Dillard Universities, began in 1998. Xavier last won the cup in ‘02.

Huey Moss ‘06 created the t-shirt design for this year’s Xavier UNCF walk shirts. 

All of the money raised during the UNCF Fund Run will remain in the local New Orleans community to help provide a college education for students who otherwise might not be able to attend college. Xavier and Dillard are two of the 39 Historically Black Colleges and Universities that are members of the College Fund.

1832 Students Partner with 7th Ward

Students enrolled in an honors public speaking course recently completed a service-learning assignment that partnered with residents of the historic 7th Ward neighborhood and the I-10 Witness Project, a post-Katrina oral history initiative.

The class taught by Dr. Ross Louis, assistant professor of communications, conducted oral history interviews with members of the Senior Wisdom Circle in the 7th Ward. The interviews documented the personal histories of the 7th Ward’s senior residents as a contribution to the neighborhood’s ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina.

The Historic 7th Ward neighborhood organization will use the interviews to preserve the important stories that its residents recalled about 7th Ward landmarks, events, and leaders.

Students delivered speeches to the residents based on the themes they discovered during the oral history interviews. Students also presented residents with personal copies of their oral history interviews. Excerpts of the interviews will eventually appear on the I-10 Witness website (www.i10witness.org).

The project was supported by Carolyn LeBrane Tilton of the Historic 7th Ward neighborhood organization, Bruce France of the I-10 Witness Project (and a Xavier instructor in the Department of Communications), and a service-learning grant from Xavier’s Office of Student Leadership and Service.

1832 University Names New Registrar

Lynn Brown has been named the University's new Registrar. She comes to Xavier from St. Louis University where she was coordinator of registration and grading.  

Brown holds a bachelor of arts degree from St. Louis University and has also done post graduate work there.    

During a visit to New Orleans for a conference a few years ago, Brown said she fell in love with the city. After Hurricane Katrina she felt she needed to contribute to the city’s recovery.  “Anyone can write a check,” she said. “When I learned that Dr. (Norman) Francis was on the task force for rebuilding, I knew I wanted to be a part of Xavier."

“Student centered” is the phrase Brown uses in talking about future direction for the division she is leading.  “I have a good staff and we’ll be working to improve the services we offer.”

1832 Women’s Health Center Honored

The Tulane Xavier National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health (TUXCOE) has received the prestigious designation of “Ambassador for Change” from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

TUXCOE, which was recognized for its work in community outreach and health education, clinical services, research, professional education and leadership development on behalf of the women and girls of New Orleans – particularly in the post-Katrina era – was one of only 14 centers nationwide to receive the designation from the DHHS.

A collaborative effort of the Tulane University Health Sciences Center and the Xavier, TUXCOE pulls from the clinical, academic and educational missions of the two institutions to build an effective community network and partnership for women’s health.

1832 Basketball Update

The Gold Rush and Gold Nugget basketball squads are 7-3 and 8-5, respectively, on the season going into their conference openers this Thursday (Jan.4) at Tougaloo.

The home opener for both teams is Jan. 6 against Mobile College.
For the latest athletic news visit here.

1832 Students to Host HS Leadership Summit

XU students will host a leadership summit for high school students Jan. 27 here on campus.

The High School Leadership Summit will be hosted by XU LEADS (Xavier University Leadership Education and Development Skills), a leadership program for students that promotes effective and ethical leadership skills.

The program is open to all students. Students receive certification after participating in the program, which is required in order to hold leadership positions on campus.

The summit will include presentations, activities on topics such as managing student life, conflict resolution, communication skills, post-secondary preparedness and options, and leadership skills.

"The High School Leadership Summit has been planned, organizing, and will be executed by Xavier student leaders, said Kawana Coulon, coordinator of the program. “We hope to engage local students in academic, leadership, and personal topics that impact their everyday lives. This summit is a valuable way to connect high school students with college students who are impacting change through education and involvement."

For more information on the High School Leadership Summit, contact Coulon at (504) 520-7320.

1832 Got News for TMAX?

Recently been accepted into professional or graduate school, earned an advanced degree, received an internship or scholarship, won an award, secured a grant, had a book or article published, accepted a new job or promotion?

If so, why not share the good news with the XU community? You can send your info to the TMAX editor by sending an e-mail to rtucker@xula.edu – it’s really that simple.

1832 XU in the News

1902Catholic News Service
XU President receives
Medal of Freedom

1902Chicago Defender
Norman Francis: In Selfless Pursuit of a Better Society

1902The White House
President Bush Honors
Medal of Freedom Recipients

1902Baton Rouge Advocate
Our Views: White House Lauds Francis

Xavier President
an Honored Guest

1902IM Diversity
Xavier Team a Top Winner at PRSA 2006 Awards Ceremony

1902Alexandria Town Talk
Peabody to Honor
Basketball Greats

1902Diverse Issues
Francis To Receive
Medal of Freedom

Editorial: An Honor
Richly Deserved

1902Chronicle of Higher Ed
Medal to Be Awarded
to University Chief

Xavier Leader Gets
Medal of Freedom

1902Louisiana Weekly
Dillard, SUNO, Xavier
to benefit from campaign

1902Voice of America
XU President to Receive
Medal of Freedom

1902The White House
Norman Francis Among
Medal of Honor Recipients

1902Baton Rouge Advocate
Harding, Moses Earn
All-Louisiana Honors



Radio personality Tom Joyner shares a moment with SGA President Crystal Moore and Miss Xavier Sundee Warren during a press conference held in New Orleans to announce a special national radio fund-raising campaign to help the area's three Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Xavier, Dillard and SUNO - in their post-Katrina recovery efforts.

(photo by Irving Johnson III)

University to Benefit from Tom Joyner Radio Campaign

Nationally syndicated morning radio host Tom Joyner joined the leadership of Xavier, Dillard and SUNO in announcing a new initiative designed to raise funds for the ongoing needs of historically black colleges and universities in New Orleans still working to recover from the devastation of last year's Hurricane Katrina.

Student leaders and administrators from the three schools joined Joyner on the Dillard campus to officially open the “Rebuilding Through Education” Initiative, a nationwide campaign which will be promoted through Joyner's syndicated morning program which airs in 120 markets reaching nearly 8 million listeners. The initiative's goal, which it hopes to meet by the end of January 2007, is to raise at least $1 million to be divided among the three institutions.

All three college campuses were hard hit by Katrina, and each is still engaged in varying stages of rebuilding and recovery while moving forward with their mission to educate their students. Paying for those repairs, and providing financial assistance for students who have also been impacted by the storm in many cases, continues to be a daunting challenge for the HBCUs. As part of its overall mission, the Foundation seeks to make sure these HBCUs continue to provide quality education and opportunities for many more years to come.

Through its partnerships with various corporations and donations from listeners, "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" has already raised tens of thousands of dollars that have been used to provide scholarships to HBCUs for needy students.



Gina Dorvilier, a senior accounting major from New Orleans (McDonogh 35 High), won the CPA review study guide from Excel Review.


Farrah Roybiskie ’98, is anticipating the release of her first novel, Deliver Me, a romance novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans. The novel, which will debut in bookstores nationwide in February 2007, will be published by Dorchester Publishing under her pen name, Farraah Rochon.



Dr. Norman C. Francis is honored by President George W. Bush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House. President Bush told the audience, "Dr. Francis is known across Louisiana, and throughout our country, as a man of deep intellect and compassion and character... All of us admire the good life and remarkable career of Dr. Norman C. Francis."

White House photo by Eric Draper

Francis Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Xavier President Norman C. Francis was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor – by President George W. Bush at a special White House reception in Washington, D.C., that was broadcast nationwide [Video ].

Francis, who is approaching his 40th year as president of the University and completing a year as chairman of the state authority overseeing hurricane recovery, was recognized for his “steadfast dedication to education, equality, and service to others.”
Although Francis received the nation's highest civilian honor with his usual humility – quipping he didn’t warrant being seated on the same platform as with other distinguished honorees – Bush left little doubt that Francis belonged with the other Medal of Freedom winners.  

Calling Francis a "man of deep intellect and compassion and character," Bush went through the brief biography: college president, first African-American graduate of Loyola University College of Law; Army veteran, leader of United College Fund and head of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

"As they continue to rebuild from the devastation of the hurricanes, the people of the Pelican State will benefit from the leadership of this good man," Bush said. "And all of us admire the good life and remarkable career of Dr. Norman C. Francis."

The Medal of Honor was established by President Kennedy in 1963 to honor people contributing to the national interest of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The presentation in the White House East Room drew the White House “A” team, including Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"It was quite incredible to be part of this," Francis said.

"These are the sorts of things that happen in one's lifetime that you never expect," he added. "I accept it for all the people who made this possible, whose shoulders I'm standing on and who helped me be encouraged to work hard and to serve the career that I chose. They all are part of this award. It's not for me alone."

Francis was in good company. Among the other Medal of Freedom honorees were blues guitar great B.B. King, author and historian David McCullough, literacy crusader Ruth Johnson Colvin, Nobel Prize scientist Joshua Lederberg, the late professional baseball legend Buck O'Neil, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist William Safire and former Soviet dissident and human-rights activist Nathan Sharansky, former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, and historian and journalist Paul Johnson.

Donald Powell, Bush's recovery czar, who has worked closely with Francis since their appointments to restore south Louisiana, said he is "absolutely ecstatic" about the honor for his colleague.

"I think it's what this award was set up for: to recognize selfless people who contribute to the betterment of their communities," he said. "Nobody has done as much for mankind in that area as Norman Francis."

Francis has served in an advisory role to four presidential administrations-- including the historic National Commission on Excellence in Education -- in addition to serving on 54 boards and commissions. He has given leadership to the Educational Testing Service, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Southern Education Foundation, the American Association of Higher Education and the United Negro College Fund.

In recognition of his work, Francis has received 36 honorary degrees and 19 major awards – including the Times-Picayune "Loving Cup" in recognition of his unselfish service to the New Orleans' community, the “Legend” award from the National Urban League, and the “Man of the Year” award from the 100 Black Men of America.

Francis' most recent civic activity came after Hurricane Katrina wrecked the house where he and his wife, Blanche, lived. Gov. Kathleen Blanco appointed him to lead the Louisiana Recovery Authority to guide the process of rebuilding after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Cicely Miller ’03, student activities coordinator at Odessa College (Texas) has opened her own art business, Cicely's Jazzy Art. You can checkout the website at www.cjazzyart.com.

Alejandro Perkins ‘99, has accepted a position as an associate attorney with the Law Offices of Hammonds and Sills in Baton Rouge, La. The firm specializes in Civil Defense Litigation, Construction Law, Employment Law, Worker's Compensation, and Public School Law.


Dr. Thomas Bonner, Jr (English) had an essay on the University and HBCUs in the aftermath of Katrina in Rebuilding Urban Places After Disasters: The Lessons of Katrina (University of Pennsylvania Press). Five of his developmental English students from the January 06 semester were also published. He also presented a paper "Millennial Students in a Time of Crisis" at the New York University Faculty resources Network's national Symposium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Joseph K. Byrd (VP for Student Services) was inducted into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Lambda Chapter's "Hall of Fame" during the fraternity's centennial celebration and received the fraternity's Esprit De Fraternite' Award for "Unselfish Leadership and Service." He has also been appointed to the New Orleans' Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission.

Dr. Bonnie Noonan (English) had an article, "Thad: Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Technical Writing," accepted for publication in the January 2007 edition of Issues in Writing

Dr. Conchetta White Fulton '85, '98 (pharmacy) made a co-presentation, "Collaborative Clinical Education of Pharmacy and Medical Students," at the American Public Health Association meeting, held in Boston, Mass. 

A Message from the President

Now that one of the most challenging years in the University’s history has ended, I believe that I can report to you with gratitude and humility that the first phase of Xavier’s campus recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is finally nearing an end.

Our campus reopened for classes in January 2006, less than five months after being damaged severely by Katrina. Two academic semesters were conducted between January and August, enabling our members of the Class of 2006 to graduate just a few months later than they would have, if not for Katrina.

Meanwhile, our current academic year began in September 2006 to an enrollment of more than three-thousand students. Despite slow progress with overall recovery in New Orleans, we are fortunate to have retained 73% of our pre-Katrina enrollment. And we are increasing our efforts to recruit new students, while maintaining prudent fiscal policies in the face of reduced tuition revenues. On the Xavier campus, more than 95% of our physical repairs have been completed, and that figure will soon be closer to 100% as restoration work continues on the first floor of our historic administration building.

So where does Xavier go from here?

Like all of the other local universities, we must assist the city wherever we can in recovery. However, we are obligated to be models in our own recovery – as we have done thus far – understanding how essential our strategies are linked to the reality of the community’s recovery. Our abilities to increase future enrollments will be based on our continued ability to provide quality educational services and a great campus experience, even during the recovery period of our city. That is no small task, but we will succeed with the continued help, prayers and support of our alumni and friends.

As the new calendar year begins, I want to thank all of you for your support. It has often been noted that Xavier’s establishment eighty-one years ago by Saint Katharine Drexel, and its ability to establish a legacy of excellence against all odds, was indeed a “miracle.” Truly ...




Three new pharmacy hires - Dr. Kristi Isaac ‘05, Dr. Vida Henderson ‘00 and Dr. Keturah Robinson ‘05 - are the most recent XU products to return to their alma mater in a teaching capacity. They join 31 other faculty members who can trace either their undergraduate or graduate roots back to Xavier.

photo by Irving Johnson III

New College of Pharmacy Hires Latest in Alumni Faculty

Returning to their alma mater to teach was the farthest thing from their minds when they were roaming the campus as students not all that long ago, but when the opportunity presented itself all three – Dr. Vida Henderson ’00, Dr. Kristi Isaac ‘05, and Dr. Keturah Robinson ‘05 – jumped at the chance.

The three new College of Pharmacy hires are the most recent XU products to come back home, joining some 31 other faculty members – out of 167 full-time University faculty – who can trace either their undergraduate or graduate roots back to Xavier.

Henderson, the farthest removed from her student days, has been working in the retail sector as a registered pharmacist at Walgreen’s Pharmacy since her graduation six years ago. Now a clinical instructor in the Division of Clinical and Administrative Services and a coordinator of the pharmacy practice lab, she has spent much of the time since her arrival at Xavier this past November submerged in the details of directing the professional experience rotation site at Operation Blessing, a free medical, dental and pharmacy clinic in New Orleans East.

“I was ready to move out of retail and when I found out about the opening at Xavier I was thrilled,” said Henderson, who also operates her own franchise of Curves, Inc. and dabbles in creative writing, having been published in various anthologies and magazines.

Isaac, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, returned to XU after completing her primary care pharmacy residency program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Although she is scheduled to teach courses in disease state management this semester, since arriving on campus last August she has spent much of her time working with students in the pharmacy skills lab – helping students develop their interviewing techniques and communication skills with patients and physicians.

She has also been immersed in planning and preparation for the implementation of the University’s new Asthma Center, which just recently opened at the Ochsner Health Clinic. The Center offers a wide range of educational services.

“As with many treatable diseases, education is such a big portion of asthma management,” she said. “Knowing what causes the asthma and proper treatment can help both the patient and medical health facilities by cutting down on hospitalization and emergency room visits.”

Robinson, who came aboard last September as a professor of clinical pharmacy, also splits her time between teaching and managing a clinical rotation site for P4 students.
In the classroom she teaches a lecture course that covers such areas as acute coronary syndromes and gastrointestinal, upper respiratory and urinary track infections.

At the clinic, she manages the internal medicine rotation site at Ochsner Clinic Foundation – accompanying P4 students through their internal medicine rotations.
Robinson is quite familiar with Ochsner, having served her residency in pharmacy practice there.

One of the biggest challenges all three have faced has been the rather abrupt transition from student to teacher. Less than two years removed from the classroom, Isaac is all too aware how students can become short-sighted, that is, studying to get past the next test instead of mastering the knowledge for future application in their careers.

“I know where they are coming from – I can remember thinking the same thing myself - but I hope I can communicate to them that really applying themselves now will make things easier for them down the line,” she said. “Maybe they will listen to me because I have recently walked in their shoes.”

And then there is the situation where your former professors are now your professional colleagues.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call them (former professors) by their first names,” laughed Henderson, “but I have to say that they have all been really helpful as I feel my way around.”

The addition of Henderson, Isaac and Robinson to the faculty represents a positive trend for both the University and the nation: young African American PhDs and PharmDs who are returning to colleges to share their expertise with current students. Such individuals are at a premium.

“Full-time faculty with terminal degrees are hard to come by in any discipline,” said Dr. Wayne Harris, dean of the College of Pharmacy, “but that’s especially true in pharmacy.”

Faculty Alums

There are now 34 alumni on the faculty with various experience and tenure on this semester’s roster. Listed by departments, they include:

Art - Dr. John Scott ’62, (40 years).

Biology - Dr. Michelle Bell Boissiere ’86 (12 years), Dr. Kenneth Boutte ’76 (21 years - the last eight as assistant dean) and Dr. William Caffey ‘80 (25 years).

Chemistry - Dr. Marion Campbell ’83 (5 years), Dr. Timothy Glaude ’84 (4 years) and Dr. Warren Ray, Jr. ’61 (30 years).

English - Dr. Ronald Dorris ’72 (11 years), Sister Donna Gould, S.B.S. ’80 (9 years), Dr. James Shade ’87 (4 years) and Dr. Robin Vander ’92 (scholar-in-residence).

Education - Sister Jean Marie Craig, S.B.S. ’72 (24 years), Dr. Faye Jones ’77 (2 years) and Dr. Elizabeth Moore Rhodes ’73 (18 years).

History - Sister Barbara Ann Hughes, C.S.J ’62 (12 years).

Languages - Bro. Herman Johnson, O.P. ’72 (17 years) and Dr. Michael White ’76 (26 years).

Music - Dr. Malcolm Breda ’56 (39 years), Dr. Wilfred Delphin ’71 (1 year) and Dr. John Ware ’77 (25 years).

Pharmacy - Dr. Adrienne Allen ’96 (8 years), Dr. Rondall Allen ’93 (3 years), Dr. Ann Barbre ’70 (31 years), Dr. Cori Brock ’99 (2 years), Dr. Conchetta White Fulton ’85, ’98 (7 years), Dr. Martha Brown Harris ’94 (6 years), Dr. Tammy Hart ’93 (11 years), Dr. Vida Henderson ’00 (recent hire), Dr. Camtu Ho ’99 (4 years), Dr. Kristi Isaac ’05 (recent hire), Dr. Keturah Robinson ’05 (1 year) and Dr. Janel Bailey Wheeler ’96 (10 years).

Theology- Sister Mary Ann Stachow, S.B.S. ’67 (26 years).

Harris pointed out that a newly-minted pharmacist going out into the retail market can earn nearly $100,000 to start, whereas an individual choosing to follow an academic track would have to settle for a $35,000 residency – not to mention the prospect of more schooling.

“Considering that most pharmacy graduates have already racked upwards of $40,000 in student loans, it’s not hard to imagine why so few new graduates are choosing teaching careers,” he said.

Needless to say, Xavier is pleased to welcome their returning alums.

Cornel West is Keynote Speaker for MLK Week of Peace Celebration

Dr. Cornel West, one of America’s most gifted, provocative and important public intellectuals, will be the keynote speaker for the 21st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week for Peace, Jan. 15-19, 2007.

The Martin Luther King Week for Peace is presented by Xavier, Tulane, Loyola and Dillard Universities. The theme for 2007 is “Defining Our Citizenship: Uniting Communities.” 

In addition to the featured Tuesday lecture – at which Lifetime Achievement and Student Community Service awards will be presented – other MLK week activities include an interfaith service, a community service day, a candlelight march and an Expressions of Unity celebration. All events are free and open to the public.

West, whose writings, frequent lecturing and preaching have brought him widespread attention and honors, is a professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University.  

His work has been described as a “polemical weapon that attempts to transform linguistic, social, cultural, and political tradition to increase the scope of individual development and democratic actions.” His writing, speaking, and teaching weaves together the American traditions of the Baptist Church, transcendentalism, socialism, and pragmatism.

His best-selling book, Race Matters (1993), sold 400,000 copies and changed the course of America’s dialogue on race, justice, and democracy.

The complete calendar of activities are as follows:

Monday, Jan. 15
10:00 a.m. - Interfaith Service - XU UC Ballroom 3rd Floor

Immediately following: A Day of Service in Greater New Orleans in sponsorship with City Year, Volunteers of America and Interfaith Works. School refurbishment site location: John McDonogh High School (Esplanade Ave.).

Tuesday, Jan. 16
MLK Convocation Reception and Lecture
6:00 p.m. - Reception at TU Lavin-Bernick Center Kendall Cram Room
7:00 p.m. - Lecture (Dr. Cornel West) at TU McAlister Auditorium

Friday, Jan. 23
Candlelight March
XU University Center
5:00 p.m. - Candle Distribution
5:15 p.m. - Kickoff Speaker
5:30 p.m. - The March will begin at the Xavier and proceed to the Tulane campus. The Expressions of Unity celebration will be held at Tulane's McAlister Auditorium.

Where Are They Now? Alum Battles the Racial Inequities of Breast Cancer Deaths

Although breast cancer is more common among white women, African-American women are far more likely to die of the disease. What accounts for this fundamental racial imbalance? Dr. Dione Farria ’85 knows all too well: African-American women are less likely to get mammograms that can detect breast cancer early when it is more easily treated.

Socioeconomic influences such as limited access to health care, mistrust of the health-care system and the lack of health insurance, both for screening and treatment, play a major role in this disparity.

For Farria, the inequity in breast cancer deaths has been a personal call to action. A radiologist who specializes in breast imaging, she is one of the rare few in the field who also holds a master's degree in public health. Her work to improve the quality of health care for people in less privileged segments of society helps Farria understand the barriers to cancer screening in a way that most radiologists don't.

farriaDr. Dione Farria '85 studies patient radiological images with resident Dr. Jennifer Demertzis.
(Photo by Robert Boston)
"Mammography screening for breast cancer is a huge public health issue," says Farria, assistant professor of radiology. "In parts of St. Louis City and North St. Louis County, we see twice as much advanced breast cancer than would be expected. Many of these women are not aware of their breast cancer risk or are fearful of getting a mammogram. Those are precisely the women we are trying to reach."

Farria is reaching out to African-Americans, the uninsured and immigrants in the city through the Siteman Cancer Center's Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities, a program she co-directs with Katherine Mathews, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

In this role, Farria draws on her expertise in breast screening and public health to develop programs that encourage screening for breast cancer and other common cancers with well-established racial disparities — lung, colorectal and prostate. Through this effort, she is determined to overcome the barriers that prevent people from minority backgrounds from getting the cancer screening tests and follow-up care they need.

As a Harvard University medical student, Farria was attracted to radiology, but she almost opted for a career as a pediatrician out of concern that radiology wouldn't provide opportunities to pursue her interest in public health. During her fourth and final year at Harvard, she traveled to the West African nation of Liberia for rotations in both pediatric and adult medicine. Although still a student, she spent many nights as the on-call doctor for a 130-bed hospital and its bustling emergency room.

Her first experiences with dying patients, especially children, occurred there.

"I can still recall vividly the wails of the mothers every morning as they mourned the deaths of their children, who had died the night before," she says. "Despite my limited medical training, this was by far the most meaningful and rewarding clinical experience of my career."

It also influenced Farria's decision a decade later to adopt twins – a boy and a girl – from Ethiopia, a country with 5 million orphans. The children, Ethan and Eva, who were six months old when they came to the United States, are now 4 and heading to preschool.

After graduating from medical school in 1989, Farria returned to Liberia as an intern for a rotation in a hospital in Monrovia, and later did a stint at a Navajo pediatric health clinic in New Mexico. But ultimately, she chose radiology as her specialty. After a clinical fellowship in breast imaging at UCLA, Farria decided to merge her training in radiology with her interest in public health by enrolling in UCLA's School of Public Health.

When Farria arrived at Washington University in 1999 seeking a career in academic medicine, her background in both radiology and public health proved to be just what the University was looking for.

In addition to an active practice in patient care, in which she interprets breast images of all sorts — MRIs, ultrasounds and mammograms — Farria is engaged in clinical trials to evaluate imaging technologies for breast cancer. She was the local principal investigator of a recent nationwide study that compared digital mammograms to the traditional, film-based scans. Digital mammograms produce images on a computer screen, where they can be enhanced to reveal looming signs of cancer. The study found that digital mammography was better at detecting cancer in young women and those with dense breasts.

Increasingly, she devotes her time to the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities.
When it was established in 2003, Farria's main role was to develop strategies to increase minority enrollment in clinical trials at Siteman.

"We quickly realized that to really increase participation in clinical trials, you really have to have an active presence in the community and provide clinical care, not just research care," Farria said.

Thus began the effort to partner with local organizations and leaders to educate community members about their cancer risks and to provide screening services and follow-up care. These efforts have also increased African-Americans' participation in clinical trials, which is vital to improving treatment and, ultimately, their survival.

A New Orleans native, she has spent the past year providing help and encouragement to her extended family, many of whom were displaced after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area. Four family members even stayed with Farria while they were getting back on their feet. But she considers her family lucky, all survived the storm and many are working their way back to the city.

- Adapted from the Washington University in St. Louis Record

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