Executive Director, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Professor of Radiation Oncology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College
Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, a strategic partnership between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She has appointments as professor of Radiation Oncology at VUMC and professor of Medicine at Meharry.
Before joining the Alliance, Winkfield was an associate professor of Radiation Oncology at Wake Forest University, associate director for Community Outreach and Engagement, and director of the Office of Cancer Health Equity at Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Prior to joining Wake Forest in August 2016, Winkfield was a radiation oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. She specializes in the use of radiation therapy in the treatment of hematologic malignancies (lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, bone marrow transplantation) and breast cancer.
She developed the first comprehensive clinical program focused on hematologic malignancies in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
With support of collaborating oncologists, she also established the first multidisciplinary clinic for patients with hematologic disorders.
She’s a national expert in community engagement with research focused on the design and implementation of programming to reduce sociocultural and economic barriers that contribute to disparate health outcomes for racial/ethnic minorities and underserved populations.
While at Massachusetts General, Winkfield was a co-principal investigator of a $3 million grant that established the Lazarex-MGH Cancer Care Equity Program, a program designed to improve clinical trial access and enrollment in vulnerable populations. She was responsible for the community outreach and education component of the grant. She has continued this work at Wake Forest.
Winkfield received her bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University and her medical and PhD degrees from Duke University School of Medicine. She was the second Black woman to graduate from the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke.
While an MD/PhD student, she restarted the Duke chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association, which is still active, and served as president of the Student National Medical Association. She went on to complete her residency training at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program in Boston.
Nationally, Winkfield is co-founder and director of the Association of Black Radiation Oncologists and served as chair of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Health Disparities Committee from 2016-2017. In 2016, she led a taskforce focused on improving racial/ethnic diversity in the oncologic workforce that culminated in the development of ASCO’s strategic plan for workforce diversity that was published in 2017 with Winkfield as lead author.
In addition to her community-engaged research, Winkfield studies the effects of radiation on different skin types and has worked to develop an animal model that will help better understand how skin with greater melanin content (Fitzpatrick Type III-VI) responds to radiation. She received a pilot grant from the Opportunity Funds Management Core of the Centers for Medical Countermeasures against Radiation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to support this work.