Dr. Underwood to Lead Health Equity Center

Willie Underwood, III, MD, MSc, MPH, FACS Appointed Executive Director, Buffalo Center for Health Equity

Elected to American Medical Association Board of Trustees in June 2019; Board of Directors Member, HealthNow New York Inc.; CEO and Founder WILL U Enterprises; Co- Founder KAPS Biotechnology

Buffalo, NY – Jan. 17, 2020 — The African American Health Equity Task Force (AAHETF) has announced the appointment of Willie Underwood, III, MD, MSc, MPH, FACS as Executive Director of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity. The announcement was made by AAHETF Co-Conveners George Nicholas, MDiv, Senior Pastor, Lincoln Memorial United Methodist; and Kinzer M. Pointer, MCM, Pastor, Agape Fellowship Baptist Church, and Chair of the Board of Managers, Millennium Collaborative Care.

“As Nelson Mandela stated, ‘… as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest,’” said Dr. Underwood. “I am tired of being sick and tired and I would like to rest; therefore, we must have the courage and the discipline, to create and implement a successful strategic plan that will lead to the end this mess of racial health inequity before this mess ends us.”

The appointment of Dr. Underwood follows the AAHETF’s 2nd annual “Igniting Hope” Conference attended by over 300 Aug. 17-18, 2019 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. The forum’s theme was “Building A Culture of Health & Ending African American Health Disparities”, and featured an announcement by the Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMCC) to provide major support for the Buffalo Center for Health Equity by allocating $372,000 in funds to support the initial launch of the new entity focusing on health issues affecting residents of Buffalo’s East Side. These dollars also assist in reaching the goals associated with the New York State Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program.

“Dr. Underwood has deep roots in the Buffalo African American community and is deeply committed to the vision and work of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity,” said Pastor George Nicholas. “He has accepted very limited compensation to assume this leadership position and is doing this because he is totally committed to building the Center.”

“The commitment we have received from Dr. Willie Underwood to provide leadership of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity is also critical especially now that he has been named a national board member of the American Medical Association,” Pastor Nicholas added. “Coupled with his academic and professional experiences in successfully securing funding for projects through the National Institute of Health, and now his increased status as a board member of the AMA, will enable us to have access to resources we really need for this community.”

“Dr. Willie Underwood has lived his entire life to a standard of excellence,” said Pastor Pointer. “As a son, as a student, as a clinician and as a colleague, the overriding reality of his life has been excellence. Dr. Underwood has adopted Buffalo as home, and he cares deeply for its citizens. As the Executive Director of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, Dr. Underwood will lead the way for every citizen of Buffalo to discover excellence. This process will transform the entire region into a learning center of excellence where one’s health is unmitigated by his or her Zip Code.”

About Dr. Underwood
Willie Underwood III, MD, MSc, MPH, is a board-certified urologist with nearly 20 years of overall urologic surgery experience, including more than 10 years focused on robotic urologic surgery. He was elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees in June 2019, and is Co- Founder of KAPS Biotechnology, a Biotechnology company that is currently validating a new and novel prostate cancer biomarker. He is also a former Associate Professor, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Urologic Oncology.

An expert in health care disparities and health care policy, Dr. Underwood has served on several national and regional health care policy committees, including as a board member of HealthNow; as a board member and medical advisor to the Love Canal Medical Fund Inc.; as a past president of the Erie County Medical Society of New York; as a member of the AMA and National Medical Association Commission to End Health Care Disparities; and as a member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Urology Residency Review Committee.

Dr. Underwood has also chaired the AMA Council on Legislation; the Erie County Medical Society Legislative Affairs Committee; the Medical Society of the State of New York Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Committee; and the HealthNow Health Care Services and Quality Initiative Committee.

Raised in Gary, Ind., Dr. Underwood earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Morehouse College, and his Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in anatomy and cellular biology degrees from the State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, N.Y. He received his general surgery and urologic surgery training at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Conn.

After his residency, he became the fifth urologist admitted into the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, which he completed in 2002 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. While in Ann Arbor, he also earned a Master of Public Health degree in health management and policy from University of Michigan, School of Public Health in 2004.
In addition to co-authoring more than 120 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and published abstracts, he has received millions in research funding from the National Institute of Health and holds a U.S. patent for co-developing a biomarker for prostate cancer.

“Igniting Hope 2019: “Building A Culture of Health & Ending African American Health Disparities” was held on Fri., Aug. 17 and Sat., Aug. 18, 2019 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo at 955 Main St., Buffalo. The Conference was free and open to all community members.

The 2019 Conference featured leading African American public health experts who have experience in initiating and engaging communities to effect a change in minority health disparities including Moro Salifu, MD, MPH, MBA, FACP, Director of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center; John Ruffin, PhD, Founding Director, National Institute on Minority and Health Disparities; and Lisa A. Nicholas, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California Los Angeles Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

About The African American Health Equity Task Force (For further Information: https://tinyurl.com/yy96t5da)
Vision: The African American Health Equity Task Force will eliminate race/ethnicity-based health disparities among African Americans in the City of Buffalo, NY by addressing the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH).

Mission: The African American Health Equity Task Force (SDOH) identifies areas of racial/ethnic health disparities in the City of Buffalo, proposes and helps implement solutions on a community level, and influences public policy to improve the health and health care of the community. Through collaboration with its community partners, the AAHDTF focuses on: Research, Advocacy, Policy, Program Development, Community Engagement, Assessment, Education, Consulting.

Goals: Established in 2015, the AAHETF is committed to the following goals and accomplishments:
• Establishment of a working group of community partners that represent the African American Community, Academia, Clinical representatives, healthcare institutions and community-based organizations as the African American Health Equity Task Force. Develop and implement a workplan that will engage the community in a robust and interactive strategy, concentrating on the SDOH to eliminate race-based disparities.

• Development of The Buffalo Center for Health Equity.

• Work in close collaboration with the recently announced University at Buffalo Community Health Equity Research Institute, a center that will conduct research that addresses the root causes of health disparities, while developing and testing innovative solutions to eliminate health inequities in the region. The vision of the UB Institute is to ensure that wellness and social wellbeing become a reality for all people in Buffalo, including people of color residing in underserved neighborhoods and who are more likely to have serious, chronic and often preventable diseases as well as significantly higher mortality rates. Faculty researchers and students from 10 UB schools will collaborate within the institute. Timothy Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research in the Jacobs School, will lead the center. He is also the director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Three key goals will guide the UB center’s work:
o Facilitating and expanding multidisciplinary research focused on health disparities and health equity in the Buffalo area.
o Providing training opportunities to students and community members interested in pursuing careers in transdisciplinary research on health disparities.
o Partnering with the community, including the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, to align the research with the region’s needs.

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