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Dr. Rachel Issaka
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June 13, 2023

Rachel Issaka receives Health Care Heroes Award

She is a 2023 recipient of the inagural Health Care Heroes Award from the Puget Sound Business Journal.
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Awards Diversity Faculty

Congratulations to Dr. Rachel Issaka, assistant professor (Gastroenterology) who has been selected as a recipient of the 2023 inaugural Health Care Heroes Award from the Puget Sound Business Journal.

These awards recognize those front-line workers who have made an impact on health care in our community through their concern for patients, their research and inventions, innovative programs and other efforts that go above and beyond.

Dr. Issaka is a respected voice for improving cancer care, reducing health disparities and prioritizing equity, diversity and inclusion in healthcare through local and national advocacy work.

Dr. Issaka received the award in the Health Equity Champion category, which honors those who have worked to break down inequities in health care or health care access for underserved populations or areas.

As a researcher and clinician, she is particularly interested in investigating the issues that cause delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Colorectal cancer, when detected and treated early, is often curable; the five-year survival rate for localized colorectal cancer is 90%.

Her research focuses on decreasing colorectal cancer mortality through increased screening in medically underserved populations. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and recognized by several national GI societies. Nationally, she is a founding member of the Association of Black Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists, a platform she uses to amplify her community-based strategies for colorectal cancer screening.  

The implementation of Dr. Issaka’s colorectal cancer population health strategy led to UW GI being recognized this year by the WA Health Alliance as the top site in the state of Washington for colorectal cancer screening for screening 88% of eligible patients—well above the national benchmark of 72%. This recognition is quite remarkable in light of the estimated 2 million fewer individuals screened for colorectal cancer as a result of COVID-related delays in GI care, about which she published in JAMA in 2021.

She is also leading a first-of-its-kind rideshare study to address access barriers to colorectal cancer screening.


Dr. Issaka will receive the award at a ceremony on July 13.