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Scholar Spotlight Award

Katie Ports, PhD


Health Equity Research (HER) Applied

Cancer InCytes Magazine

Volume 7, Issue 1, Summer 2020

June 7, 2020


Managing Editor: Barbara Recine, MA

Katie Ports headshot.jpg

5% off spirits/wine/gourmet gift baskets.

Discount Code: CIM5

Katie A. Ports, PhD has over 15 years of experience with social and behavioral health research. Much of her work has focused on examining risk and protective factors for violence to improve understanding of the root causes of violence, as well as how these root causes and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) connect to later health outcomes and health inequities. She has published over 50 articles in notable, peer-reviewed journals, including articles that connect ACEs to cancer risk and other critical outcomes. Dr. Ports is the co-founder of Health Equity Research Applied (HER Applied). She has served as a senior research psychologist with the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. She has also served as a senior behavioral scientist in the Division of Violence Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she served as their subject-matter expert for Adverse Childhood Experiences.


What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The most rewarding aspect of my work has been witnessing the dramatic increase in people who: 

  1. understand that ACEs are a critical public health issue that impact one’s ability to reach one’s full health and life potential

  2. respond to harmful/problematic behaviors with compassion (as opposed to punitively), because they understand that at the root of these behaviors there are often experiences of unaddressed trauma, including structural racism and historical trauma

  3. support efforts that address social and structural conditions that put some children and families at risk of ACEs 


What has been the greatest challenge in your fight for health equity?

The greatest challenge in the fight for equity has been the belief many people have that changing social and structural conditions is either “not their job” or that “it’s not possible.” These are untruths. We all need to challenge ourselves to think more thoughtfully about how we can defy the status quo of structural racism, poverty, and historical trauma that are pervasive in our society, and that contribute to adverse health outcomes, including cancer. This could mean voting for candidates who support policies that provide economic stability for families. It could be having compassion for the ‘troubled’ youth and providing mentorship. It could be, as a small business owner, allowing new moms to bring their baby to work with them, if you cannot provide paid time off. All of these efforts can help ensure that children have the relationships and environments needed for them to thrive. Our history demonstrates that positive change for children and families is possible. There was a time when we allowed children to work long hours in inhumane conditions and when we did not have seat belts and car seats, but we changed those policies to protect our children. We know that certain conditions put children at risk of ACEs and, subsequently, a host of poor outcomes, including cancer. We need to act today to change these conditions.


What message would you like to give your readers?

We all have a role to play in preventing ACEs, and together we can change the conditions that put children at risk of ACEs and a host of poor outcomes, including substance abuse, mental health, high school non-completion, poverty, heart disease, and cancer. Think about what you can do today, tomorrow, and further in the future to help ensure that all children - no matter their race, ethnicity, birthplace, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other sociodemographic factor - are able to reach their full health and life potential.

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