DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Lancer Stephens

Diabetes, which negatively affects the way the body turns food into energy, is a chronic health condition that impacts over 34 million adults in the United States.1 Uncontrolled diabetes can have long-lasting secondary effects, including heart disease, vision loss, kidney disease, and can result in lower-limb amputations. Despite advancements in care, significant gaps remain for the treatment and prevention of diabetes, especially in high-risk populations. There are multiple risk factors for diabetes, and American Indians are twice as likely as Caucasian Americans to develop the condition. In addition to being at higher risk for diabetes, American Indians have higher rates of complications from diabetes, including kidney failure. Lack of access to quality healthcare is a significant factor for American Indians’ increased risk of diabetic complications.

Lancer Stephens, an expert in Native Health and a diabetes prevention advocate, serves as a consumer reviewer on the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program peer review panel. Consumer reviewers such as Lancer are an essential part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) two-tier review process and provide an important perspective to application funding recommendations as a patient, family member, or advocate of a disease or condition. As a child, Lancer first became aware of diabetes when he learned that his cousin was in a wheelchair due to having had both legs amputated owing to diabetic complications. He recalls that diabetes was prevalent in his American Indian community when he was growing up, and he now knows that Native populations are at significantly higher risk. Witnessing the devastating consequences of diabetes in friends and family members encouraged Lancer to devote his life and work to advocating for diabetes prevention and improved treatments, with an emphasis on protecting Native populations.

Lancer is currently an Associate Professor of Research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center specializing in Native Health and is heavily involved in diabetes advocacy. He is the President of the Native Youth Preventing Diabetes, and he works with the Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Diabetes Coalition, the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium, and the American Diabetes Association. Outside of his work and advocacy, Lancer spends his time with his family and children. He is also passionate about reading, and he loves to fish and spend time near the water.

While reviewing for the National Institutes of Health and Indian Health Service, Lancer discovered that CDMRP was seeking consumer reviewers and he was thrilled to participate and learn about new research and therapies being developed. “To know that there are so many brilliant minds across the nation working on a goal of eradicating diabetes makes me feel humbled yet proud to be a part of something that is so vitally important for everyone,” he says. As a consumer reviewer, he feels hopeful about the innovative work being done by scientists. This fuels his efforts both personally and professionally to support the American Indian community in diabetes education, prevention, and treatment.

Lancer emphasizes that as a consumer reviewer, he has always felt respected and heard throughout the CDMRP review process. He knows that the scientists and clinicians on the peer review panel appreciate his emphasis on real-world application and how projects impact the patient community. Lancer believes that both consumers and scientific experts have integral information that makes funding recommendations more effective. He asserts that “[a] consumer reviewer is always respected and, in my experience do not sell yourself short because we can all learn from each other.” Beneath all of Lancer’s work is the core value of community: he believes each of us can give back to our communities and make them better for future generations.

Reference:

1 https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html

Last updated Wednesday, June 23, 2021