Heather Aker Cares for Cancer with Epidemiology

Heather Aker, Program Director at the OSU Comprehensive Care Center, puts together the pieces of a puzzle through her work in epidemiology, the branch of medicine that deals with the patterns, causes, and effects of disease and health-related conditions in defined populations. “I kept asking questions like, ‘how did this happen,’ and ‘why did this happen?’ and my mentor at the time said ‘well if you want to know how and why you need to be in public health.’” Aker explained how this conversation with her mentor led to a career in her industry, helping cancer patients and their families. If this wasn’t rewarding enough, she has always been enthusiastic about the energy for volunteerism; “I just love the level of excitement for it in Columbus,” says. Aker has helped provide valued experiences for YPs through volunteer programming as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Columbus Young Professionals Club and has also ridden the Pelotonia bike race. Her experiences in the latter were unique in that the ride is so close to her heart. “It’s so inspirational. The entire ride, there are people cheering you on. The entire 50 miles you had people outside of their houses holding signs saying, ‘Thank you, I’m a survivor.’”

What would you say about your neighborhood? What makes it stand out for you?
There is always something fun and exciting happening downtown… whether it’s a Clippers or Blue Jackets game, a concert at Columbus Commons, a show at the historic Ohio Theatre, an exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art, or one of our many downtown summer festivals. I love living within walking distance to the excitement that downtown Columbus has to offer, and with rapid downtown expansion including the Scioto Greenways Project and an increasing residential market, there are even more opportunities to live, work, and play in beautiful downtown.

What other neighborhoods do you frequent and what would you say about them?
Short North Arts District! Short North has so much to offer: the shopping, the food and drinks, and – of course – the art. It’s a hip and edgy neighborhood that puts Columbus creativity on display. It’s the “art and soul” of our city!

Favorite Places in Columbus:
Martini Modern Italian: Martini is the perfect combination, an elegant atmosphere with innovative dishes and drinks.
Tigertree: You can always find something fun and unique!
Scioto Audubon Metro Park: The Audubon offers so much to Columbus residents. In addition to the beautiful scenery, there is hiking, biking, fishing, an obstacle course, a climbing wall, and the best dog park and agility course around (according to my pup), all in the heart of downtown.

#1 favorite event in Columbus: Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival and Parade. Columbus is a progressive city, and I’m proud to be a part of a community that values and embraces diversity.

What inspires you?
I’m passionate about improving our community and the lives of those around us. I’m enthusiastic about my work at The James, and I know that our research is contributing to our mission of creating a cancer-free world, one person, one discovery at a time. I see progress every day. I also enjoy volunteering and coordinating volunteer opportunities for members of Columbus Young Professionals Club. There are so many organizations in our community making a significant impact, and I’m happy to be donating my time to the valuable work they’re accomplishing.

Pastimes: Stand up paddleboarding (SUP), fitness and running, team sports (softball, kickball, flag football).

Published on April 6, 2015

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