Born at UF Health Jacksonville, Mobley comes back to UF COMJ to improve lives of cancer survivors
The University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville is home to outstanding faculty whose research has contributed to the advancement of medicine and patient care. In recognition of this, we are highlighting this important work and its impact on the lives of our patients.
A unique connection
Long before Erin Mobley, PhD, MPH, was an assistant professor in the department of surgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, she was a newborn baby at University Hospital, now UF Health Jacksonville. Born at 27 weeks gestation at just 2lbs., 3 oz. (992 grams), Mobley was considered extremely preterm and was cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit for three months. She experienced many complications common for preemies: cardiovascular issues requiring emergency surgery, poor lung development requiring chest tubes, inability to regulate her body temperature, jaundice, all while having IVs in her head, feet and ankles. Mobley’s parents were extremely happy with the care she received from faculty, nurses, technicians and other staff. Years later, the former patient is now a faculty member working and conducting research in the same halls.
“UF welcomed me into the world, and now I’m happy to be back,” Mobley said. “My early life experiences as a patient framed my perspective of what a health care system should embody: high-quality patient care that allows for advancement in medicine and research. I am excited to be part of that legacy.”
Cancer battle fuels research
At six years old, Mobley was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma in her bladder. She received treatment at Nemours Children’s Health and Wolfson Children's Hospital, undergoing surgery and countless rounds of chemotherapy. Now, almost thirty years after her cancer diagnosis and treatment, her personal experience continues to fuel her desire to improve the lives of fellow cancer survivors.
The first-generation college graduate earned her Bachelor of Science and master of public health from Florida State University, followed by her PhD in health services and policy from the University of Iowa. After graduating with her doctoral degree, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Young Adult Cancer Survivorship Research at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. As a health services researcher, she has made cancer survivorship the focus of her work.
"There is a lack of knowledge surrounding care for cancer survivors," Mobley said. "My research focuses on issues impacting survivors’ financial wellbeing, access to care, insurance, clinical trials, and other areas that affect quality of life for those diagnosed with cancer. As a result of my personal journey, I want to make an impact on the long-term care and outcomes of survivors like myself."
Journey back to UF
In 2020, the Jacksonville native's journey came full circle. Mobley accepted her current role at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville after being recruited by Leigh Neumayer, MD, chair of the department of surgery, and Alexander Parker, PhD, senior associate dean of research and her mentor.
“I have had the pleasure of working with many talented PhD researchers to help them integrate their efforts in to the larger institutional mission,” Parker said. “Dr. Mobley is one of those rare instances where talent and skill for scientific inquiry combines with a warm personality and a dedication to improving the lives of others. This places a person on a trajectory of limitless potential. Having Dr. Mobley as a faculty member at the College of Medicine – Jacksonville further advances our deep commitment to conducting research that is laser-focused on improving the lives of those we serve every day.”
Mobley was excited about coming back to the River City and UF to grow, serve and make an impact in the community she calls home.
“It is important to be part of an institution that serves a diverse patient population, including people who are from historically marginalized groups or those from underserved communities with limited access to quality health care,” Mobley said. “I also want the opportunity to collaborate and grow within a clinical department, which is something unique that the college could offer. Since joining UF, I’ve been able to broaden my research efforts into addressing key issues for individuals diagnosed with pancreatic, colon, breast and esophageal cancers.”
As a faculty member in the department of surgery, Mobley often gets ideas for potential new lines of research inquiry while attending weekly meetings where faculty discuss recent cases they have encountered. Leigh Neumayer, MD, a professor and chair of the department of surgery, says Mobley has strengthened research efforts within the department.
“Dr. Mobley gives us an edge in the department of surgery. Her presence and contributions have allowed us to incorporate survivorship and health services research in our research portfolio, in addition to our active clinical trials, big data and other collaborative clinical and basic science research studies,” Neumayer said. “She collaborates with our surgeons on projects to advance care. Dr. Mobley has exceeded our expectations and accelerates the progress of any project or initiative with her organizational skills and enthusiasm.”
More research ahead
Two years into her journey at UF, Mobley has spearheaded numerous research studies. As a member of the UF Health Cancer Center and the Center for Health Equity and Engagement Research, her research often addresses health disparities and inequities among underserved or under-resourced groups spanning across Jacksonville, Gainesville and beyond.
A recent significant publication, “Impact of Medicaid Expansion on Pancreatic Cancer: An Examination of Sociodemographic Disparity in 1-Year Survival,” was published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. This was her first publication in a surgical journal of a study for which she was the lead investigator. In the study, Mobley and her multidisciplinary team reported that living in a state that expanded Medicaid is associated with improved pancreatic cancer survival at one year; however, this benefit was not experienced uniformly. In fact, Medicaid expansion was not positively associated with an improvement in survival for African Americans, those from non-metropolitan counties, or those living in highly socially deprived areas.
Currently, Mobley is building the Precision Cancer Survivorship Cohort. This first-of-its-kind effort will evaluate multiple aspects of how cancer survivors age and access follow-up care after treatment. This cohort will support future investigations designed to understand and inform more personalized approaches to improving cancer survivorship. Patients may enroll in the cohort if they are seen by a participating physician or if they have enrolled in the Consent2Share program. Consent2Share allows study-eligible UF Health patients to be contacted for future research.
Mobley encourages young people, especially women and those from groups that have been historically underrepresented in medicine and science, to be confident in themselves and their work.
“Never hesitate to collaborate, send the email, make the call and work to improve the quality of life for the community you serve,” Mobley said. “It might be uncomfortable or awkward to be the only person in your role or position within a department. But that’s OK. That is precisely what makes you unique. Your voice and presence make a difference.”
Away from the office, Mobley enjoys going to the beach, eating at local restaurants in the city, and spending quality time with her family, friends and miniature dachshund, Bowden.
The UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville has attained national leadership for its transformative, cutting-edge research. Among physicians and scientists, the institution is known for fostering a rich, collaborative environment that fuels discovery and encourages creativity. Research is centered around changing lives. Visit med.jax.ufl.edu/research for more information.