What we can do: Responding to hate crimes and racially motivated violence against Asians, Pacific Islanders

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We are shocked and horrified by the recent spate of violence and hate crimes against people of Asian and Pacific Islander  descent across the United States.

In response to these events, The Cancer Letter is stepping up coverage of inequities and disparities—and we are seeking your help and guidance on an upcoming series of investigative stories.

As a publication that actively advocates for racial justice and health equity, we condemn these attacks, which have led to deathssevere injuries, and widespread fear in AAPI communities.

In line with our 2020 statement and coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement, The Cancer Letter is committed to amplifying the voices of those who have been historically marginalized.

We unequivocally denounce anti-Asian slurs and other insidious, discriminatory language that was routinely used by former President Donald Trump and officials in his administration.

“The spike in physical violence against Asian Americans across the nation was whipped up in large part by bigotry and conspiracy theories that grew online, fanned by national leaders, including former President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic and referring to the virus as the ‘China plague’ or ‘kung flu,’” the Anti-Defamation League said in a study published this week.

ADL researchers observed an 85% increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter following the news that then-President Trump contracted the coronavirus.

“Notably in a year of coronavirus-related bigotry and surging physical attacks, the biggest jump in severe harassment was reported by Asian American respondents, at 17%, compared to 11% reported a year ago,” ADL researchers wrote.

In the U.S., about one in four oncologists identify as AAPI, according to data from the American Medical Association. Nearly two in 10 U.S. physicians and medical school faculty also identify as AAPI, according to data from the American Association of Medical Colleges.

At North American academic cancer centers, about one in 10 directors and associate directors identify as AAPI, according to 2020 data we received in a survey conducted in partnership with the Association of American Cancer Institutes (The Cancer LetterOct. 9, 2020).

At The Cancer Letter, we are embarking on a year-long series of stories that will examine inequities in cancer care. Matthew Ong, associate editor of this publication, was one of five U.S. journalists selected for the 2021 class of the Association of Health Care Journalists’ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance.

With support from AHCJ and The Commonwealth Fund, Ong will focus on how racial and ethnic minorities experience cancer disparities and financial toxicity—problems that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We would love to hear from you. To suggest story ideas, whether from the clinic or on broader policy matters, email matthew@cancerletter.com.

Here is a selection of stories and editorials from our 2020 coverage of racial injustice and disparities in oncology:

  • Robert Winn & Otis Brawley: I could have been George Floyd (The Cancer LetterJune 5, 2020)
  • States with Medicaid expansion have lower overall cancer mortality, study finds; no additional decrease observed in Black populations because of worse baseline (The Cancer LetterJune 5, 2020)
  • #WhiteCoats4BlackLives aims to lead to real change in oncology (The Cancer LetterJune 12, 2020)
  • Living as an ethnic minority in a nation laden with discrimination (The Cancer LetterAug. 6, 2020)
  • John Carpten: Inaugural AACR report calls for legislative action on disparate burden of cancer (The Cancer LetterSept. 18, 2020).
  • First-ever TCL-AACI study of the leadership pipeline points to urgent need for more diversity at elite cancer centers (The Cancer LetterOct. 9, 2020)
  • Karen Knudsen’s AACI presidential initiative: Reduce cancer disparities across North America (The Cancer LetterOct. 16, 2020)
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As Ben Ho Park sees it, the mission of a cancer researcher doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. It follows that Park’s new role as director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is inseparable from his role as an executive of the Global Cancer Institute, a nonprofit that works with healthcare providers in low- and middle-income countries to improve survival rates for underserved cancer patients.
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