Monday, February 8, 2010

Notable Black Individuals: Dr. Rick Kittles

The University of Chicago and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs continues the celebration of Black Heritage. This week we are featuring Dr. Rick Kittles.
"I wasn't surprised there was this residential difference [between races] for these hormone-related cancers related to control of socioeconomics, there's obviously some biology that needs to be further explored." –Dr. Kittles

Dr. Rick Antonius Kittles is currently the Scientific Director of the Washington, D.C.-based African Ancestry Inc., a genetic testing service for determining individuals' African ancestry, which he co-founded with Gina Paige in March 2003. He also serves as an Associate Professor in the Section of Genetic Medicine of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago and Associate Director for Diversity and Community Relations at the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center.

Dr. Kittles was born in Sylvania, Georgia but grew up in Central Islip, New York. He holds a B.S. degree in biology from the Rochester Institute of Technology (1989), an M.S. degree in biology from the State University of New York at Brockport (1991) and a Ph.D. in biology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (1998).

In 1998, he went to Howard University and helped to establish a national cooperative network to study the genetics of hereditary prostate cancer in the African American community. During his time at Howard University, Dr. Kittles was named the Director of the African American Hereditary Prostate Cancer (AAHPC) Study Network of the university’s National Human Genome Center. Kittles also co-directed the molecular genetics unit of Howard University's National Human Genome Center. Dr. Kittles' research primarily focuses on exploiting gene genealogy in studies of population history and disease associations.

Dr. Kittles is a national leader on race, genetics and health disparities, as well as cancer risk. His work on tracing the genetic ancestry of African Americans has brought to focus many issues, new and old, which relate to race, ancestry and identity. His high profile research and his strong ability to communicate genetic concepts and issues to the lay public has been featured over the past decade in five BBC and PBS network documentaries, CNN, and an interview with Leslie Stahl on CBS 60 Minutes. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on genetic variation in the African Diaspora, race, prostate cancer, and health disparities.