As I reflect upon the start of 2018 and the mission of our University of Illinois Cancer Center, I remain humbled by the continuous opportunities that emerge for the UI Cancer Center to stand firm in our mission as a community serving cancer center. In the wake of celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and on the pulse of public discourse on the treatment of women and immigrants in America, we are reminded to ground our quest for scientific discovery in social justice and to honor the legacy of women and indigenous migrants (immigrants) in our great country.
The rich diversity that exists in Chicago dates back to its founder, Haitian Immigrant Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. Chicago also has a long history of advancing gender equality. The legacy of Jane Addams, the namesake of the UIC College of Social Work, is a clear example of how one peace activist can transform the social consciousness of generations.
I am reminded of a quote by Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel who stated,
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
I am honored to serve alongside committed scientists whose research “takes the side” of equity and inclusion daily. From our innovative basic science looking at biological determinants that impact prostate cancer outcomes in African American men, to our community based survivorship programs supporting the population health of Latina breast cancer survivors and our researchers examining policies and structures that lead to colorectal cancer disparities in underserved communities, our research and service speaks loudly to our mission and vision. Our growing women’s health research portfolio is ensuring that the voices of all women who experience cancer inequities further exacerbated by social determinants such as those voiced through the #MeToo movement are represented in our research and engagement. Our UI Cancer Center Patient Brigade is even moving us beyond community engagement towards community involvement.
January 16, 2018 marks the second annual National Day of Racial Healing (#NDORH) as part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) effort. I invite you as cancer center members and friends of the cancer center to reflect upon the rich diversity of our faculty, staff, patient population, and communities. It is our diversity and our commitment to equity and inclusion that truly makes the UI Cancer Center a “community focused cancer center.” I enter 2018 with renewed confidence and hope, firmly rooted in our commitment to responsible science and compassionate care, acknowledging the history and contributions of immigrants, women and racial/ethnic minorities who enhance the beauty and applicability of our work.