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ADI Highlights: MSTP Seminar with Dr. Consuelo Wilkins

Posted by on Friday, March 29, 2024 in MSTP Workshop News, Science Advocacy .

by Xavier Bledsoe (G4)

Recently the Vanderbilt MSTP had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Consuelo Wilkins, Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence at VUMC during our weekly seminar series. Dr. Wilkins is a nationally renowned physician scientist  investigating the social, cultural, and environmental contributors to research and health. At a moment when terms like “health equity” and “racial disparities” are becoming commonplace in the public discourse, it can be easy to overlook just how many years of effort and scholarship were involved in establishing these concepts. Dr. Wilkins’ progression through academic medicine reflects an inspiring model of perceptiveness, curiosity, persistence, and bravery. 

As a clinical trainee in geriatrics, she noticed that older African American women were being screened far less frequently for osteoporosis than their Caucasian and Asian peers. While the prevailing opinion of the time based this practice on presumed racial differences in bone density, Dr. Wilkins decided to investigate. In analyzing bone density for over 100 patients, she reported statistically insignificant differences in rates of abnormal bone density for Caucasian and African American women. This allowed her to conclude that “Osteoporosis screening is unjustifiably low in older African-American women.” Since then, Dr. Wilkins has gone on to publish a breathtakingly wide array of studies on topics such as diverse patient recruitment for genetic research studies and the effects of racial bias on our understanding of amyloid imaging in Alzheimer’s disease. 

With this deep and broad expertise, it is no surprise that Dr. Wilkins has been awarded grant funding as PI of multiple large NIH research awards here at Vanderbilt and beyond. Advancing health equity is a tall order. I am inspired by Dr. Consuelo Wilkins’ brilliant example of just how profoundly impactful and worthwhile this pursuit can be.  


Wilkins, Consuelo H., and Jason S. Goldfeder. “Osteoporosis screening is unjustifiably low in older African-American women.” Journal of the national medical association 96.4 (2004): 461.

Collins, Benjamin Xavier, and Consuelo H. Wilkins. “Overcoming Barriers to Health Equity in Precision Medicine Research.” The American Journal of Bioethics 24.3 (2024): 86-88.

Wilkins, Consuelo H., et al. “Racial and ethnic differences in amyloid PET positivity in individuals with mild cognitive impairment or dementia: a secondary analysis of the imaging dementia–evidence for amyloid scanning (IDEAS) cohort study.” JAMA neurology 79.11 (2022): 1139-1147.