Dr. Beti Thompson, a health disparities researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has received the American Society of Preventive Oncology annual Joseph F. Fraumeni Jr. Distinguished Achievement Award.
The award honors outstanding scientists in the areas of preventive oncology, cancer control and prevention. She received the honor March 11 at the 42nd annual ASPO meeting in New York City.
Thompson, associate head of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch, has devoted her career to improving cancer prevention in underserved populations across Washington state and beyond. For more than three decades, she has worked with diverse partners to conduct community-based, participatory research.
For example, in the Lower Yakima Valley of Washington, a largely Hispanic region, she has led large community studies focusing on cancer awareness, prevention and screening; diabetes education and prevention; and reduction of pesticide exposure among children of farmworkers.
“Beti is an amazing scholar, mentor, community member, and world citizen,” said Dr. Polly Newcomb, former head of the Hutch’s Cancer Prevention Program and past ASPO president who in 2013 received its Distinguished Achievement Award.
“Her work is based upon the deep compassion she has for all, and she has focused her research on those who have been challenged — because of race, ethnicity, income, social status — any individual who has experienced inequities. She has devoted her long career to understanding the basis of health disparities and make the field level for all.”
Under Thompson’s leadership, Fred Hutch’s Health Disparities Research Center has identified barriers to care and designed interventions to narrow the health care divide. For example, she led a National Cancer Institute–funded initiative to increase breast cancer screening among Latinas in greater Seattle and New Mexico. One such project focused on the detection of triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive malignancy that is more likely to be found in Latinas than in non-Hispanic white women.
Thompson, professor emeritus of the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health, also led a project with New Mexico State University to enhance training opportunities for underserved students and faculty members. As part of her work with Hispanics, she has mentored a number of Hispanic students through high school, undergraduate and graduate scientific studies.
Her current research focus is on disease prevention through lifestyle changes — from diet and physical activity to smoking cessation — as well as encouraging underserved populations to participate in disease-screening activities.
Thompson’s other awards and honors include the Women of Color Mentor Award; UW School of Public Health Distinguished Faculty Lecture; UW Mentor of the Year Award; Women of Valor Award (presented by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell); and election to the Washington State Academy of Sciences.
The ASPO Distinguished Achievement Award, presented since 1983, was renamed in 2016 in honor of renowned cancer epidemiologist Joseph Fraumeni Jr., scientist emeritus of the National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics. He is perhaps best known for his discovery (along with Dr. Frederick P. Li) of an inherited increased risk of early-onset cancers known as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome.
In addition to Thompson and Newcomb, others from Fred Hutch who have received the ASPO Distinguished Achievement Award include Dr. John D. Potter, director emeritus of the Public Health Sciences Division, who received the honor in 1999.