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Researchers strategize to block new HIV infections, work toward a cure

A hot topic for a big scientific conference convening in Seattle

March 4, 2019 | By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Carl Dieffenbach

Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS within the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, heads HIV/AIDS research for the federal agency, part of the National Institutes of Health. He spoke in advance of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

Photo by Josh Belzman / Fred Hutch News Service

As thousands of researchers from around the globe converge on Seattle for a conference on HIV/AIDS, top health officials in the United States are preparing to launch an ambitious new program aimed at eliminating new infections in the U.S. by 2030.

In advance of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, or CROI, which opened today at the Washington State Convention Center, Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, who heads AIDS research for the National Institutes of Health, said that the NIH has the money it needs “to jumpstart the program in this fiscal year” and continue it through the next one.

“We are all in,” he said in an interview Sunday prior to speaking at a workshop hosted by the community advisory board for defeat HIV, a research group based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. That group, a public-private partnership funded by the NIH, is exploring the use of genetically modified, HIV-resistant blood stem cells as a potential cure for the virus that causes AIDS.

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Dr. Veena Shankaran named 2019 Leader in Health Care

Seattle Business magazine honors oncologist, health services researcher

March 1, 2019 | By Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Veena Shankaran

Dr. Veena Shankaran

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Veena Shankaran of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington was honored Thursday with a Gold Award for Achievement in Medical Research at Seattle Business magazine’s 2019 Leaders in Health Care Awards banquet at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Seattle.

Shankaran is co-director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research, or HICOR, an associate professor of medicine at UW and an oncologist who treats patients with gastrointestinal cancers. She is a national leader in studying “financial toxicity” in cancer care — that is, the personal financial problems that are too often a result of cancer treatment. Her research and leadership focus on developing new approaches to measure and mitigate these problems.

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Stamping out bias with compassion and cartoons

Sikh Captain America visits the Hutch to talk storytelling, superheroes and strategies for fighting hate in life and at work

Feb. 27, 2019 | By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service

Vishavjit Singh

Vishavjit Singh, also known as Sikh Captain America, spoke at Fred Hutch last Friday about how he battles intolerance and hatred with compassion and cartooning.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Some people respond to hate with hate. Others, like Vishavjit Singh, respond with humor and art.

A New York political cartoonist and performance artist, Singh, 47, came to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Friday to speak about the importance of empathy and finding commonalities with others — in life and at work.

Bigotry, intolerance and hatred often spring from fear, anxiety or other feelings of vulnerability, he told the audience of scientists and staff. Sharing our vulnerabilities, our stories, with others can help us move past the fear and bias.

“When you’re hurt, when you feel vulnerable, you take out that frustration and fear and anxiety and anger on other people,” Singh said in his talk, co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the employee group Hutch United, which fosters a diverse and inclusive scientific community, a core Hutch value. “Sometimes you do it to loved ones, but a lot of time you do it to strangers.”

Singh learned this in a deeply personal way after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York, when he was routinely screamed at, flipped off and called hateful names like “Towelhead” and “Bin Laden” because of his appearance.

“I got a lot of prejudice and bigotry and ignorance thrown on me and it was hard,” he said. “People who looked like me, with turbans and beards and brown skin went through many challenges. Unfortunately, this has not stopped.”

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