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Dr. Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, a Pioneer in Cancer Risk Assessment and Treatment of the Most Aggressive Forms of Breast Cancer to Deliver Villanova’s 2017 Mendel Medal Lecture

Villanova’s 2017 Mendel Medal recipient, Dr.Olopade— the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, and Director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago —will speak on campus Nov. 17 

Dr. Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, a Pioneer in Cancer Risk Assessment and Treatment of the Most Aggressive Forms of Breast Cancer to Deliver Villanova’s 2017 Mendel Medal Lecture

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University’s annual Mendel Medal Lecture, featuring Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, MD, FACP, OON, an internationally renowned oncologist, the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, and Director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at The University of Chicago, will be held at 2:00 p.m., Friday, November 17 in the Villanova Room at the University’s Connelly Center. Dr. Olopade, the recipient of the University’s 2017 Mendel Medal, will deliver a lecture titled, “Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer in Diverse Populations.” The event is free and open to the public. Parking will be available on campus at the I-1 Ithan Avenue Parking Garage.

Dr. Olopade was selected by Villanova as this year’s Mendel Medal winner in recognition of her work in developing innovative strategies for comprehensive cancer risk assessment and prevention based on evolving understanding of genetic and non-genetic factors in individual patients, with a focus on young women of African ancestry. The Mendel Medal, established in 1928 by the Board of Trustees of Villanova University, honors pioneering scientists “who have demonstrated, by their lives and their standing before the world as scientists, that there is no intrinsic conflict between science and religion.”

Dr. Olopade’s lecture will discuss her mission as a researcher and medical professional, to, in her words, “seek ‘genetic justice for women and their families around the world, by challenging existing paradigms in how breast cancer is detected, diagnosed and treated.”

Using genomic technologies and bioinformatics, Dr. Olopade’s laboratory research focuses on deciphering the root causes of breast cancer in diverse populations.  The overall goal of her research is to accelerate progress in cancer prevention and treatment by gaining a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of tumor progression in at-risk individuals,

In 2005, Dr. Olopade authored a pioneering study that found significant differences between breast cancers in Caucasian women and in women of African descent. She has published widely in medical and scientific journals. Dr. Olopade is an elected member of several honor societies, including the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She has received numerous honors and awards, including honorary degrees from Bowdoin University, Princeton University, North Central College and Dominican University; MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist and Exceptional Mentor Award; American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship; Officer of the Order of the Niger Award; and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom from Want Award. Dr. Olopade has served on the Board of Directors for the National Cancer Advisory Board and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the MacArthur Foundation.

Dr. Olopade earned her medical degree from the University of Ibadan College of Medicine in Nigeria. She trained in Internal Medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and in Hematology/Oncology and Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago.

First awarded in 1929, Villanova’s Mendel Medal honors 19th century Augustinian friar and scientist Gregor Johann Mendel, Abbot of the Augustinian Monastery, Brünn, Austria (now Brno, the Czech Republic), best known as “the father of modern genetics,” for his discovery of the celebrated laws of heredity that bear his name. As an institution founded by the Augustinian Order, Villanova University plays a key role in sustaining Mendel’s legacy. Past recipients of the Mendel Medal have included Nobel Laureates, outstanding medical researchers, pioneers in physics, astrophysics and chemistry, and noted scientist-theologians. Click here for more information on the Mendel Medal and its history.

The Rev. Kail Ellis, OSA, PhD, Special Assistant to the President and Dean Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University, commenting earlier on Dr. Olopade’s selection as the 2017 Mendel Medal winner said, “The Mendel Medal selection committee was very impressed with Dr. Olopade’s work in breast cancer genetics, especially on the impact of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in young women across the African diaspora.” “Her research in the incidence of breast cancer among minority populations as well as disparities in health outcomes, are particularly in accord with the criteria for the award of the Mendel Medal.”

 “I am humbled to receive this significant honor,” Dr. Olopade said. “I would like to share that honor, to dedicate this award to the memory of my beloved father, the Late Reverend Canon John Bodunde Falusi, an Anglican Minister who fully expected me to make the most of my opportunities and use my talents to serve humanity. He believed in education and recognized the importance of applying scientific discoveries to alleviate suffering and eradicate diseases.”

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit