BILD 1, UCSD Melinda Owens, Instructor Updated 12-20-21 BILD 1: The Cell Biologist Journal #15 Instructions Scientist Spotlight: Dr. Rick Kittles Dr.

BILD 1, UCSD
Melinda Owens, Instructor

Updated 12-20-21

BILD 1: The Cell
Biologist Journal #15

Instructions

Scientist Spotlight: Dr. Rick Kittles

Dr. Rick Kittles is the founding director of the Division of
Health Equities at City of Hope National Medical Cancer
Center. He was initially a high-school biology teacher
before deciding to get his PhD. Currently, he is a scientist
who studies disease risks, particularly how race, genetic
ancestry, behavioral factors, and genetics interact with
each other to cause cancer. He is particularly interested in
researching health disparities, or why certain diseases are
more common in certain populations. His interest in
disparities began when he was in graduate school and his
grandfather died of prostate cancer. He was shocked to

learn that prostate cancer is 1.6 times as common in African-Americans as in other populations.
Dr. Kittles is also a co-founder of African Ancestry, the first company that specifically served
people with African ancestry to trace their genetic roots to specific groups within Africa. His
family, being descended from enslaved people, had no records of where they came from before
the United States, and he realized that it would be very meaningful for himself and many other
people to be able to uncover their roots.

1) Please read about Dr. Kittle’s motivations and his science in this short article written by

the City of Hope: Bonar, S. “Rick Kittles, Ph.D.: On a Mission to Eliminate Health
Inequities.”

2) High blood pressure (hypertension) is a big problem that can lead to many negative
consequences such as heart failure and stroke. In the United States, African Americans have
higher rates of high blood pressure compared to European Americans, and blood pressure
medication is less likely to work in African Americans to lower their blood pressure to an
acceptable range. Some people have hypothesized that these differences may be due to
different genetics between African and European Americans. Please read the Introduction
and the first paragraph of the Discussion of Dr. Kittle’s paper Van Tassell et al.
“Association of West African ancestry and blood pressure control among African Americans
taking antihypertensive medication in the Jackson Heart Study” J. Clin. Hypertens. 2020 Feb

BILD 1, UCSD
Melinda Owens, Instructor

Updated 12-20-21

12. Focus on the big picture and
try not to worry about individual vocabulary.

To better understand this article, here are some resources:
– On the relationship between “race,” ancestry, and health: Dr. Kittle’s TEDx talk “The

biology of race in the absence of biological races”:

– On how genes and the environment can interact in general: Khan Academy, Gene
Environment Interaction:

After reviewing these articles and doing your own research and thinking, write a 200 word or
more reflection with your responses to what you read. Please discuss these questions:

1. What was most surprising, interesting, or confusing about the articles? What new
questions do you have after reviewing these articles?

2. In this article, the researchers rule out a particular cause for why African Americans on blood
pressure medication more frequently have high blood pressure than European Americans.
What is another hypothesis (from the article or elsewhere) about what might cause this
difference?

3. What do these articles tell you about the types of people that do science?

  • BILD 1: The Cell
    • Biologist Journal #15
    • Instructions
  • 1) Please read about Dr. Kittle’s motivations and his science in this short article written by the City of Hope: Bonar, S. “Rick Kittles, Ph.D.: On a Mission to Eliminate Health Inequities.”
  • 2) High blood pressure (hypertension) is a big problem that can lead to many negative consequences such as heart failure and stroke. In the United States, African Americans have higher rates of high blood pressure compared to European Americans, and b…

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