College of Public Health students graduating

Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD

Department: Dean's Office • Epidemiology

Title: Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence | Associate Professor

Email Address:

Phone: (859) 323-1147

Location: CC449, Markey Cancer Center Roach Building, 800 Rose Street, Lexington KY

CV: Akinyemiju CV August 2017.pdf

Dr. Akinyemiju is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, and a member of the UK Markey Cancer Center. Dr. Akinyemiju has advanced degrees and training in epidemiologic and translational research, and considerable experience in conducting prospective human subjects research. For instance, she is the PI of the NIH funded MEND study (Mechanisms for novel and established risk factors for breast cancer in women of African descent), which focuses on understanding the epidemiology of aggressive breast cancer, in particular the hormone-receptor negative subtypes prevalent among women of African descent in relation to metabolic dysregulation. She also has a solid background in the biological sciences, interdisciplinary training in global health and health disparities, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship focused on understanding the molecular aspects of breast cancer risk factors and prevention among African and African-American women. Her past research has examined racial disparities in breast cancer along the prevention continuum, highlighting the role of poverty and access to healthcare in cancer screening and survival. More recently, her research focused on examining molecular biomarkers for cancer which can better predict prognosis and help to elucidate the underlying biological/genetic mechanisms underlying breast cancer etiology and outcomes. Given that metabolic syndrome is highly prevalent among US adults, especially among African-Americans, is adversely associated with breast cancer prognosis, and induces significant changes in expression of key cancer-related genes, her current work is focused on identifying unique metabolic syndrome-related genetic signatures in breast cancer tumors. These may be useful clinically for identifying patients at high risk of relapse who may benefit from additional treatment for metabolic syndrome, and/or inform the development of specific drug targets for genes altered due to metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Akinyemiju also serves as Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence at the College of Public Health. In this role, she works to promote proper and fair treatment to all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, political belief, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Dr. Akinyemiju will work with faculty, staff and students within the College of Public Health and collaboratively with other units across the University to develop programs and strategies to: 1) promote a diverse, inclusive and equitable academic environment, 2) eliminate barriers to excellence that may disproportionately affect any group of individuals compared with others, and 3) encourage individual and collective action towards these goals at every level within the college.


Research Interests: Cancer prevention and control, health disparities, social determinants of health, cancer survivorship. molecular epidemiology of cancer

  • Social Determinants of Cancer Health Disparities- Race, Socio-economic Status and Healthcare Access: This line of research utilizes multilevel data from the US and globally to examine how disparities are initiated and perpetuated across the cancer prevention continuum. The ultimate goal of this research is to identify the social determinants of cancer disparities and inform strategies for improved tailoring of prevention, screening and treatment and an ultimate goal of eliminating disparities in cancer.
  • Metabolic Dysregulation and Racial Disparities in Cancer Aggressiveness and Outcome: This line of research involves the use of prospective cohort data (the Reason for Geographic Disparities in Stroke Study) and primary data collection (Mechanisms for Established and Novel Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Women of African Descent [MEND, PI: Akinyemiju]). The goal is to identify and describe the molecular epidemiology of cancer disparities in people of African descent (African-Americans, Africans) in order to understand the etiology of aggressive cancers in this population. A major risk factor of interest in this line of research is the role of metabolic dysregulation such as obesity, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia and insulin resistance, in the development of aggressive subtypes of cancer in this population group, and the associated higher mortality rates above and beyond the impact of socio-economic status and access to healthcare.
  • Epigenetic Mechanisms in Cancer Health Disparities: This line of research seeks to improve understanding of epigenetic changes in key cancer genes due to environmental/lifestyle factors and genetic background. This line of research may provide critical information on the epigenetic dysregulation due to metabolic syndrome and associated risk factors, how these relate to alterations in breast cancer genes, and whether these associations differ by race


For a full list of published work: