WOMEN TO WATCH: THE RESEARCHER, DR. LUISEL RICKS-SANTI

Dr. Luisel Ricks-SantiI’m sure you’ll agree, I look forward to the day when we can safely say that cancer doesn’t stand a chance. The day when we no longer have to worry about hearing that a loved one has received that dreadful diagnosis, or if they do, the day when we no longer have to fear that this diagnosis is the beginning of the end.  Today’s Woman to Watch has committed her life to doing cancer research.  Research is her passion and she one day hopes that her research will be a part of finding the cure to many forms of cancer.

Please introduce yourself…

Luisel Ricks-Santi, also known as, Dr. Lulu, Dr. Santi, and Dr. Ricks

Tell us about your work…

Dr. Lulu: Because of my own family history, I decided to become a cancer researcher.  Specifically, I’m trying to identify genes that predispose to cancer. Currently, I am the Director of the Hampton University Cancer Research Center.

Why did you decide to go into this line of work and why do you think it is important?

Dr. Lulu: My research philosophy is to provide health services through research and education. Currently, genetic diagnostic and treatment services are only available to self-paying patients that can afford these life-saving services.  It is also unfortunate that those who need the services the most, do not have access to them. Therefore, my job is to educate and engage the public in research where often these life-saving services can be provided for free.

What impact, if any, does your work have on women? 

Dr. Lulu: My passion is breast cancer research.  My research focuses on the identification of breast cancer genes, such as brca1 and brca2.  Unfortunately, these breast cancer genes account for predisposition in few women so additional studies are warranted. Currently, we are recruiting women with breast cancer to help identify these genes.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work and what are you most proud of?

Dr. Lulu: The education part is my favorite. I love talking about how something as easy as knowing your family history could help us determine your risk for cancer, how we manage you if you’re diagnosed, or how you are treated. Knowing one’s family history is a remarkable and powerful tool in disease prevention and health promotion.

What has been most challenging about your work?  

Dr. Lulu: Research takes time. The average turnaround time between research and the development of treatments and medicine is over 10 years.  I’ve been doing research for about 15 years and I am just now enjoying some of the fruits of my labor.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dr. Lulu: The road to where I am today has been less than conventional. I expected to be here at the end of my career not at its inception.

Who are your greatest influences?

Dr. Lulu: My parents who showed me that hard work pays off.

What would you like for your legacy to be?

Dr. Lulu: I want people to know what research is and that we all have a responsibility to engage in it for humanity’s sake. Their participation may not benefit them directly or immediately, but participating can one day change how we treat or cure disease.

What’s next for you?

Dr. Lulu: Finding cures for all of the many types of cancers.

Is there someplace online where readers can connect with you and follow your work?

Dr. Lulu: Cancerresearchcenter@hamptonu.edu

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