Phoenix A. Matthews: Reducing cancer-related health disparities

Phoenix A. Matthews

Phoenix Matthews, PhD, became interested in tobacco prevention early in life.

In rural Appalachia, where Matthews grew up, smoking was common. Matthews’ mother began smoking at age 12, and the College of Nursing Helen K. Grace Diversity
Scholar remembers buying cigarettes for her at a young age.

Today, Matthews is a leading researcher focused on reducing cancer-related health disparities among vulnerable populations.

Matthews helped pass Chicago’s first-ever restrictions on menthol flavored tobacco sales after speaking at a series of town hall meetings, sharing research that showed high rates of African American youth smokers choose menthol cigarettes.

Matthews’ current work includes the development of smoking-cessation treatments and lung cancer screening interventions for high-risk populations of smokers, including African Americans, LGBT people and Chinese American immigrants.

As the inaugural Helen K. Grace scholar, Matthews’ scope of research has also expanded to Thailand, with a focus on removing barriers to equal healthcare for Thai LGBT individuals.

Helen Grace, PhD, MS ’65, FAAN, dean of the UIC College of Nursing from 1977 to 1982, established this unique faculty position in 2012 to promote and encourage diversity among nursing faculty.

This year, Matthews received the college’s Distinguished Researcher Award and was named to the Public Voices Fellowship program, helping 20 faculty across the University of Illinois system to amplify their voices in public conversation about pressing issues.

“I love UIC,” Matthews says. “I love the students and faculty who are here. I hope I continue to learn and benefit from this very rich learning and scholarship environment.”