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Rachel Ceballos, PhD, has been appointed senior director of community outreach and engagement at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U), associate professor in the department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the U, and a Huntsman Cancer Institute Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. Ceballos will begin April 1.
Ceballos is a biobehavioral scientist who conducts research on ways to reduce cancer health disparities. Her primary focus is on improving health outcomes of people who are medically underserved, and communities historically disproportionately affected by cancer. She uses mixed-methods and community-engaged approaches to study the psychosocial impacts of cancer, improve cancer screening rates, deliver culturally appropriate cancer education, and support cancer survivors, among other focus areas. Throughout her career, she has championed equity, diversity, and inclusion work through mentorship of students and through servant leadership on numerous boards, task forces, and committees.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Dr. Ceballos to Huntsman Cancer Institute and Utah,” says Neli Ulrich, PhD, chief scientific officer and executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute. “Her research background and proven track record of building effective partnerships will further our efforts to engage Mountain West communities and help us advance a cancer-free frontier.” Ulrich adds that Ceballos’ decades-long work with Black, American Indian, Latino, and rural communities will be a key asset to Huntsman Cancer Institute’s leadership team.
Dr. Ceballos previously served as an associate professor in the division of Public Health Sciences and as program lead for rural populations in the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington.
“I am thrilled to join Huntsman Cancer institute and contribute to the momentum of impact and change happening across the region,” says Ceballos. “I am excited to help bring the community voice into the Mountain West’s fight against cancer.”
Ceballos says the inspiration for her work comes from the injustices and strengths she saw in the community of her youth and continues to see among the individuals, communities, and colleagues she has the privilege of working with today.
In her position, Ceballos will lead Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Community Outreach and Engagement activities, which aim to achieve health equity through a comprehensive approach. These include monitoring the cancer needs of the region; facilitating and conducting research relevant to community needs; working to improve knowledge and awareness of cancer; enhancing delivery and access to cancer screenings; increasing participation in clinical research; working to eliminate barriers to care; and building mutually beneficial partnerships with community-based organizations, nonprofits, health systems, health departments, coalitions, and faith-based groups, among others.
While serving eight years in the U.S. Coast Guard, Dr. Ceballos began her academic career at Skyline College in San Bruno, California and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University, Long Beach. She earned a master’s degree and PhD in biobehavioral health from the Pennsylvania State University, where she studied the effects of laboratory-based stressors on neuroendocrine and immune function in human and animal models. She received post-doctoral training at the University of Washington, expanding her interdisciplinary training to include community-engaged research practices to address cancer inequities and health disparities.
“Since our founding, Huntsman Cancer Institute has been a leader in community outreach and engagement work,” says Sachin Apte, MD, chief clinical officer and physician-in-chief of the cancer hospital at Huntsman Cancer Institute. “Dr. Ceballos brings extensive experience and expertise to a respected team. Under her leadership, Huntsman Cancer Institute will continue to be seen as an exceptional model, and, most importantly, as a partner in our community.”
Huntsman Cancer Institute
About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U) is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The institute is leading the world in scientific discovery, and turning it into unsurpassed cancer care, transforming hope into a reality. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering a cancer-free frontier to Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming (The Area We Serve). Huntsman Cancer Institute is home to over 300 clinical trials, with over 237 research teams studying cancer at any given time and more genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Huntsman Cancer Institute’s scientists are world renown for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique tumor. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.