The Center for Asian Health Equity

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The Center for Asian Health Equity (CAHE) was established in 2015 in response to the unmet health needs of the diverse Asian American communities living in the Chicago metropolitan area. CAHE is a unique academic and community partnership between the University of Chicago and Asian Health Coalition (AHC), a community-based organization dedicated to the study of Asian American health and disparities. The Center takes a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to addressing gaps in clinical medicine and public health through a comprehensive program for research, health education, training, community engagement, policy, and information dissemination. CAHE is the first center in the Midwest region housed within a university environment, and one of only four in the nation.

The absence of any Asian health research centers in the Midwest coupled with the highest Asian American population growth rate in Illinois provides an immediate opportunity to capitalize on the depth of the University’s institutional reach, and create an infrastructure to address the gap in this body of scholarship and build community partnerships. CAHE’s foundation is built on more than 20 years of community health and prevention work through the AHC, which has an extended network of over 25 diverse ethnic community-based organizations across Chicago. Concurrently, the Coalition leverages on the Center’s expertise to conduct health disparities and research, and provide clinical care and advocacy for low-income Asian immigrants and other communities of color.

Center Director

Dr. Karen Kim, MD, MS

Dr. Karen Kim, MD, MS

Dr. Karen Kim, MD, MS

Dr. Karen Kim is a Professor of Medicine, the Dean of Faculty Affairs for the Division of Biological Sciences, the Associate Director at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center - Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Disparities, and an faculty affiliate at the Center for the Study of Race, Culture and Politics and Center for Gender Studies. Dr. Kim is also a nationally recognized leader in research and public policy focused on Asian Americans and serves as the principal investigator of the Partnership for Healthier Asians, an AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)-supported program to develop a market-oriented dissemination model to improve cancer screening among Asian immigrants. Additionally, Dr. Kim is the principal director of the Cook County Colon Cancer Alliance to Reignite and Enhance Screening (CARES) program, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and focuses on increasing colorectal cancer screening among racial/ethnic minorities in Chicago. Dr. Kim has over 20 years of experience in research, advocacy, and civic engagement to improve health equity for Asian Americans.

Dr. Kim is the Vice Chair of the National Council for Asian American Pacific Islander Physicians, advisory member of the CDC’s Hepatitis B Task Force, steering committee member of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, and executive board member of the American Cancer Society.

Moreover, Dr. Kim developed the CDC-funded Hepatitis Education and Prevention Program in collaboration with the Asian Health Coalition to address hepatitis and liver-cancer related disparities among Asian Americans. She also has extensive experiences in leading large-scale multidisciplinary teams to address disparities among minority populations.

Her educational interests include health disparities, cultural competency, patient centered communication, hepatitis, and cancer prevention. Dr. Kim has received numerous educational awards, including Distinguished Faculty, Best Teaching Faculty among medical students and gastroenterology fellows, and Fellow in the Academy of Distinguished Medical Educators at the Pritzker School of Medicine.

Executive Director

Fornessa T. Randal, MCRP


Ms. Randal has more than 20 years of experience in community-academic partnerships, health systems innovation, and minority health planning. Her background extends to cancer and health disparities research, public health, outreach and administrative leadership. She is recognized both locally and nationally for her innovative approach to program design and implementation.

Ms. Randal has disseminated and transformed local health initiatives into statewide and national models, and developed prototypes that have been recognized by both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She is the former Assistant Director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Disparities. Ms. Randal was instrumental in establishing and expanding partnerships within the Asian, African American, Native American and Hispanic communities during her time with the UCCCC.

Prior to her current role, Randal was the founding Executive Director for a health management nonprofit organization that developed the nation’s first public-private partnership to address the overutilization of emergency rooms for primary care sensitive diagnosis among the uninsured and underinsured. Ms. Randal’s team was the first to pilot a NIH-supported Complementary and Alternative Medicine cancer survivor program in Chicago’s Chinatown, working collaboratively with Chinese American Service League. Additionally, Ms. Randal has worked with researchers at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Institute of Urology at the University of Southern California where she provided leadership in research grant submissions in cancer and pelvic floor research initiatives.

Affiliated UChicago Researchers

Our affiliated researchers from the University of Chicago specialized in and represent various disciplines, including medicine, public health, policy, social sciences, psychology, and information technology.

  • Dr. Seeba Anam, MD, Assistant Professor | Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience

  • Dr. Blase Polite, MD, MPP, Associate Professor of Medicine | Department of Medicine, Section of Hematology/Oncology

  • Dr. Michael Quinn, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Social Psychologist | Department of Biological Sciences, Section of Internal Medicine

  • Dr. Sachin Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Associate Chief Medical Information Officer | Department of Biological Sciences, Section of Internal Medicine

Staff Researchers

  • Dr. Karen Kim, MD, MS, Professor of Medicine, Director of Center for Asian Health Equity | Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology

  • Dr. Helen Lam, PhD, RN, Director of Research & Evaluation at the Center for Asian Health Equity, Community Health Educator, University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center | Department of Biological Sciences