This year's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) progress report focuses on the promise that the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center values are grounded in and expressed through the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. To highlight this, we are presenting the progress we have made in the context of each of our values and sharing stories that help to support our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, anti‑racism, anti‑oppression and accessibility.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Duwamish, Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.
We also acknowledge exploited labor, racist, heterosexist, ableist, xenophobic, religious, sexist, trans-antagonistic and other oppressive violence, and the ongoing struggle for justice on this land. We reflect on the ancestors of our various peoples, nations, tribes and families; ancestors whose struggles, pain, power, privilege and strivings we hold in our very bodies. We recognize, with gratitude, all those whose sacrifice, struggle and labor make our daily freedoms possible, and challenge us to learn, work and live justly.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center values are grounded in and expressed through the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. We structured this report around each of our values to highlight how we are moving the organization forward by honoring the commitment of our values to ourselves and our community.
Collaboration: Collaboration for the Future of Science
Compassion: Pursuing Health Equity as Access to Compassionate Care
Determination: Determined to Win
Excellence: Pursuing Inclusive Excellence to Sustain Our Mission
Innovation: Innovative Leadership Extends Our Reach and Impact
Integrity: Our Integrity is Our Bond with Our Patients and Each Other
Respect: Showing Respect Through Inclusion and Affirmation
Learn more about the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center Values.
During this time of heightened attacks and confusion about diversity, equity and inclusion, Fred Hutch Cancer Center remains steadfast and clear about our commitments and strategy, reflecting our values and recognizing the urgency of our mission.
In this year’s progress report, we continue to share the progress we’ve made, challenges/opportunities to take our work further, and lessons we have learned. This report distinguishes itself from 2021 and 2022 with the sharing of brief stories and other data. We have organized this report to highlight our values, how we reflect and aspire to them, and our determination to share our truth.
We anticipate that this snapshot and excerpts of our work will provide inspiration and insight, raise questions and wonderings. It is our intention to demonstrate that this work is unfinished—we abstain from the enticing notion of tidy DEI work. We aim to tell our truth, at least an appropriate summary of it, here and at this time with the goal of coherence and perhaps a plan for more celebration in next year’s report.
Overall, we are proud to say that we are making steady progress—not by any one measure, but the totality of our efforts to center inclusive excellence and our shared humanity as principles for workplace culture, scientific excellence and compassionate patient care.
We continue to hold ourselves responsible to this standard.
Dr. Paul Buckley
Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer
Pathways to Science as a Collaborative Effort
Collaborative partnerships are essential to science education, and this approach also informed diversity, equity and inclusion priorities for the Office of Graduate Education (OGE). Internal strategies have included efforts to build community and address health and wellness for marginalized populations, as well as external outreach and program recruitment.
In coordination with the Fred Hutch Basic Sciences Division, the Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) group developed a facilitated wellness group for graduate students and postdoctoral fellowship recipients. The monthly facilitated group for BIPOC graduate students and postdocs was also made available to trainees at all Fred Hutch/University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Cancer Consortium institutions.
Along with Human Resources and the DEI Core team, the OGE included Fred Hutch staff, student and postdoctoral fellowship recipient representation at national conferences focused on students from historically excluded groups.
The Office of Education & Training (OET) houses programs committed to training the next generation of scientists, with a commitment to increasing access and creating pathways for people who have been historically excluded from science.
OGE and MCB staff, faculty and students are collaborating with Dr. Paul Buckley, Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer and an outside consultant to create the first MCB DEI strategic plan. The strategic plan will include DEI strategies for four to five years.
The Faculty Development Program supports the success of Fred Hutch faculty through cohort-based programming to enhance mentoring and leadership skills, and to provide professional development resources.
Intentional efforts are currently under way to build new relationships with Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College through the collaborative efforts of Science Education, DEI Core and faculty in Computational Biology, Erick Matsen and Arvind “Rasi” Subramaniam. Fred Hutch was a sponsor for the Annual Research Day and Graduate and Career Fair at Spelman College this year. Internship experience included a cultural enrichment component that exposed interns to sense-of-place activities and Black history and community in the greater Seattle area.
The Postbaccalaureate Scholar program was developed in 2023 and will give historically excluded groups of people opportunities to gain the experience and knowledge necessary to go to grad school. Many basic sciences division labs have already accepted postbaccalaureate scholars for fiscal year 2024.
During summer 2023, the Stats Summer for Biomedical Data Science Research Training had 12 interns. This program supported underrepresented undergraduate students to gain skills and confidence in statistics and data science with the goal of grounding their belonging the field.
During summer 2023, the Computational Biology Summer Intern Program had 16 interns. The program included career opportunities and social activities for underrepresented students working towards their future in STEM fields.
The Informatics Technology for Cancer Research program supports researchers to develop informatics technology for cancer research and treatment for more diverse participation within the field.
The DataTrail program equips members of underserved communities with skills and support to work in data science.
The Geonomics Data Science Community Network includes a network of faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI), universities and community colleges working toward improving access and education in genomics.
Anti-Racism in Oncology Project
Bridgette Hempstead is a 62-year-old proud mother of three daughters and four grandchildren who has lived in Seattle for almost 44 years. On her 35th birthday, after insisting that she be thoroughly screened, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the belief of her doctor at the time that Black women didn’t need a mammogram - a racist myth the doctor learned in medical school.
As Bridgette responded to her own health needs, she also thought about her community of Black women who share similar experiences of being turned away from life-saving medical services, not being believed by their care providers, or being neglected in clinical treatment processes or trials.
With her personal experience in mind, she founded Cierra Sisters, a breast cancer survivor and support organization focused on African American and underserved communities. “Cierra,” a word from African roots, is interpreted as “knowing” and emphasizes Bridgette’s belief that knowledge can disrupt some of the impacts of racism.
Last year, Bridgette invited Fred Hutch to partner with Cierra Sisters to implement a project that would explore a shared understanding of racism and explore how racism as a systemic oppressive system can inform policies, practices and behaviors in oncology: Anti-Racism in Oncology. She wanted to demonstrate that the stories that Black women share about their experiences in health care — cancer care specifically — are real. The project produced a series of video vignettes that share these stories and feature insights from Fred Hutch clinicians and leaders. They are also being considered for educational use.
Bridgette Richardson Hempstead (Cierra Sisters)
The Health Equity Program uses a DEI lens at the intersection of patient experience and clinical care in leading projects and initiatives to address health disparities for Fred Hutch patients. For fiscal year 2023, the program continued efforts to collect patient self-reported race and ethnicity data, as well as piloted sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data collection. A Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) pilot in a gastroenterology (GI) clinic was aimed at screening new patients and connecting them with Fred Hutch resources. With the success of the pilot, SDOH screening will expand organization-wide in 2024.
Patient navigators are culturally sensitive staff who provide resource information and support that guides patients through their treatment at Fred Hutch. This year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) awarded our Patient Navigation Program a 2.5-year grant to strengthen navigation services for Spanish speaking patients, especially those with hematological and general oncology cancers. This included hiring an additional Spanish-speaking navigator, Richie Hurtado. Twenty sites nationwide were funded as part of the ACS’s competitive Navigation Capacity-building Initiative Grant Program.
Spanish-speaking patients can face many challenges: long distances to care, lack of health insurance, few FMLA and paid leave benefits, financial worries, and fears based on past negative experiences with the healthcare system. Hurtado makes proactive outreach calls to inform patients about navigation support, provides ongoing navigation consultation as needed, and conducts community outreach visits with colleague, Andrea Lolbe Suzuki, also fluent in Spanish. So far, these visits have included the Northwest Rural Health Conference in Spokane, Villa Communitaria events in the South Park and Duwamish River communities (Seattle), and the Latina Health Symposium in Granger. Community focus groups are planned, with our Fred Hutch colleagues in the Center for Community Health Promotion in Sunnyside, to learn more about ways we can tailor our services to better meet the needs of these communities.
Despite facing an inequitable burden related to specific diseases, racial and ethnic minorities are often underrepresented in clinical research. Increasing diversity in clinical trial participants is a priority initiative for Fred Hutch and is essential for generating accurate and generalizable results, understanding treatment impact across different groups, identifying potential adverse effects, promoting ethical considerations, fostering inclusivity and ensuring equitable health care outcomes for all.
The Seattle Vaccines Trials Unit (VTU) sustained strong diversity among newly enrolled HIV vaccine clinical trials participants:
The HVTN Faith Initiative conducted HIV research, educational and awareness activities nationally in diverse faith communities, including Southern Baptists, Buddhists, Islam and Bahá’í. The HVTN also developed strategic partnerships with the Black AIDS Institute, Treatment Action Group and Southern AIDS Coalition to amplify its engagement of BIPOC communities across the United States.
In 2023, Nursing and Patient Care Services focused on improving the patient experience and expanding access to clinical trials, screening, education and supportive care services. A signature achievement was the launch of the Service Excellence program, which applies to both external and internal service. Opportunities include expanding the Service Excellence program and growing partnerships to better serve all communities.
Philanthropy Drives Research and Benefits the Community
Fred Hutch embeds DEI commitments throughout its work with philanthropic individuals, corporations, and foundations, and with community partners. This includes featuring diverse voices from across the organization in communications and engagement activities with new and existing supporters, such as ‘lunch and learn’ events, newsletters, behind-the-scenes videos, and opportunities like Obliteride, our annual bike ride and 5K that empowers people to help cure cancer faster by raising funds for Fred Hutch.
In addition, Philanthropy’s fundraising efforts help support programs that advance Fred Hutch’s shared goal of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. Examples include health equity research projects as well as patient support services such as the patient navigator program and Patient and Family Assistance Fund, and education, training, and workforce development initiatives like the new Postbaccalaureate Scholar Program and Hutch Advance. Fred Hutch Philanthropy is also working to create inclusive, accessible spaces for our community members at events and to increase the diversity of our vendors and service providers through active collaboration with Procurement on the Supplier Diversity Program.
Our Case for a Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Fred Hutch is a collection of concepts, strategies and practices that constitute our values and enable our mission. This work centers the human experience as one that shares dignity, worth, respect and ambition, while reflecting the variety of physical and social expressions, backgrounds, beliefs, languages and histories, to name a few. In our determination to find cures for the many cancers and infectious diseases that challenge our shared humanity with suffering, we strengthen our DEI work for several important reasons:
For these reasons and others, we are steadfast in our equity and inclusion pursuits, to eradicate human suffering caused by cancer and infectious disease. We leave no one out; we are in this together.
"Our DEI strategic effort is not about arguments, separation, cancelation or condemnation. Rather, it is a comprehensive examination of our work and an enduring commitment to take unified actions that are corrective or creative toward inclusive excellence in advancing our mission with integrity and compassion."
- Dr. Paul Buckley, Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer
The 2024-2026 Fred Hutch DEI Strategic Plan is the first comprehensive strategic plan focused on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at Fred Hutch that engaged all divisions and areas in its development. This historic strategic plan development process, led by our VPCDIO, included three phases of work:
The merger in April 2022 and the resulting process of integration requires us to review and align policies and strategic practices across the enterprise. This process includes DEI best (and promising) practices for employee recruitment that were instituted for a portion of the organization pre-integration. Here is an update of our efforts:
After developing our Inclusive Excellence in Recruitment and Retention (IXRR) Plan in 2022, we launched the IXRR Task Force, a small group of staff members whose work focuses on making various elements of the plan operational in 2023.
Our affiliated groups and programs continue to foster safe and brave spaces for connection and community. They are valuable and important contributors to employee engagement and supporting a sense of belonging.
The Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus (the Caucus) is an initiative of the DEI Core department that centers the voices and experiences of people of color at Fred Hutch as members of the global majority. The Caucus prioritizes joy and wellness as a part of the ongoing work within and outside Fred Hutch and to thrive within and dismantle systems of oppression and domination. All BIPOC folx (faculty, clinicians, staff and administrators) are welcome to attend monthly gatherings and participate in other offerings for the BIPOC community. Racial/ethnic affinity groups are chartered under the BIPOC Caucus program.
CERE is committed to serving the Fred Hutch community by giving a voice to racial and ethnic minorities, promoting employee engagement through diversity and inclusion educational initiatives, and celebrating successes through inclusive representation in internal and external communications.
FHREE’s goal is to support the mission of Fred Hutch by ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff, promote education and awareness. Its purpose is to create a community of support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and employees with associated identities or relationships. FHREE aims to create a space where employees feel safe and included in their work environment at Fred Hutch and to increase the cultural competency of straight and cisgender employees. This will strengthen our ability to serve diverse communities and accomplish our scientific goals.
Hutch United plays a key role in fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment for scientists and scientific support staff at all levels and positions. This voluntary and employee/trainee-led group serves to add value to the organization and strengthen retention. Hutch United has distinct goals tied to the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion and the mentorship and career development of its members. The group’s core values, principles and practices advance the Fred Hutch mission of eliminating cancer and related diseases.
Our workforce reflects an increasingly diverse organization of talented scientists, clinicians and professionals who are committed to the mission and values of Fred Hutch. In our work toward inclusive excellence, we are beginning to see the results of DEI best practices followed by committed leaders and departments across the center reflected in our workforce.
As a federal contractor, Fred Hutch is required to collect data from all employees at the time of onboarding related to gender, racial and ethnic identity. These data, along with other information from Human Resources on different job categories, were used to assemble this report. Over 95 percent of our employees voluntarily provided these data that inform our annual report. While these data are quite complete, a clear limitation is our inability to assess our workforce along other dimensions relevant to DEI. These include sexual orientation, gender identity beyond male/female categories, education, language, nationality, socioeconomic status and immigration. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Core department is preparing to collect these types of data in the future, but none are yet available to report.
Note: Because the majority of graduate students at Fred Hutch are employed by the University of Washington, this report does not include demographic information about this population.
Gender: The current Gender categories are "Female," "Male" and "Other.”
Race/ethnicity: Available racial/ethnic data include “American Indian,” “Asian,” “Black,” “Hispanic,” “Pacific Islander,” “White,” “Two or more” and “Not Specified.” For individuals who identify as “Two or more” we do not have information on which specific groups they identify with. Given the small numbers for some of these groups we created two variables, defined as follows:
Some individuals with known identifiers in multiple categories are counted in each.
Dr. Andrasik Demonstrates Groundbreaking Leadership
In addition to receiving this year’s prestigious Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Award for Scientific Leadership, Michele Andrasik, PhD, was recently awarded a groundbreaking National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (R01) for a multilevel communication campaign to increase HIV vaccine trial enrollment. The awarded project focuses on increasing participation of diverse populations in early phase HIV vaccine clinical trials in the United States.
Dr. Andrasik is a senior staff scientist and clinical health psychologist who is director of social and behavioral sciences and community engagement at the Fred Hutch-based HIV Vaccine Trials Network, or HVTN. For more than a decade, Dr. Andrasik has been working in Seattle on ways to increase opportunities for underrepresented minorities at risk for HIV to participate in clinical trials of vaccines and drugs to prevent it.
Every HVTN site has a community advisory board to ensure that local voices are included at every step of the clinical trial, from design to recruitment to implementation. Some community advisory board members have participated with HVTN sites for years or decades.
HVTN is one of four research networks funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), three of which focus primarily on HIV. These networks were called on to recruit participants and run clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines, and together they formed the new COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN). The same community-specific communication, engagement and recruitment strategies were also put into place during clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Drs. Wendy Law and Christopher Li are founding leaders of the Cancer Center DEI Network, which now has representation from all comprehensive cancer centers across the nation. Monthly meetings provide mutual support on DEI initiatives mandated by the National Institute of Health and sharing of effective strategies. The network is a significant development in DEI work in cancer centers nationally.
EDGE invites managers and direct reports interested in guided approaches for writing, discussing and engaging their individual DEI commitment statement. This employee-driven document outlines contributions, experiences and learning opportunities relevant to Fred Hutch’s commitment to being an equitable, inclusive and anti-racist organization. This multi-year pilot will inform the organization’s next steps in implementing DEI accountability and alignment with the employee performance evaluation process.
The pilot has reached the end of the first year. Current participants have learned how to understand, construct and deliver their diversity, equity and inclusion personal commitment statements with attainable goals. There were 33 members who successfully completed year one and 30 who will be continuing to year two.
Developing a useful framework for individual DEI Commitment Statements is a disruption to ways this practice has been socialized at some other institutions to focus on personal traumas, rather than aspirations and actions.
In the second year of the pilot, the DEI Core has developed enhanced peer support through small groups and mentoring pairs.
The DEI Core department is equipped with DEI practitioners who champion DEI goals, facilitate and coach effective practices across the organization. However, we believe in a collaborative strategy that is informed broadly by partners across the organization and by colleagues who offer advice on a regular basis. This year, we launched a new advisory structure to meet strategic needs.
The DEI Steering Council is comprised of three subgroups:
Recognizing Staff Who Demonstrate Integrity and Excellence in Patient Care
The burden on health care systems across the nation has been acutely felt in the COVID-19 era. Staff and clinicians who support the overall experience for patients demonstrate a genuine commitment to excellence in their everyday work; our patients are the most important part. We show up to make sure patients and their caregivers and loved ones experience the highest quality compassionate care at Fred Hutch. If we don’t get it right the first time, we stand ready to make it right, right away. This culture of integrity is the circulatory system of our clinics, felt in our care neighborhoods, and among our teams. Below are a few of our outstanding nurses who have been recognized for their generosity of spirit, rooted in our values and mission.
The Overlake Medical Center nursing staff has demonstrated integrity, compassion and collaboration in their work. They recently were recognized for their outstanding dedication, compassion and excellence in patient care. They consistently go above and beyond in their roles to make sure patients receive the highest quality of care and feel supported throughout their experience. They are attentive to patients' needs, responsive to their concerns and provide education and guidance to patients and their families. Their commitment to teamwork, collaboration and communication ensures that patients receive seamless care, and their positive attitude and warm demeanor make patients feel comfortable and cared for. This team is a shining example of what it means to be a health care professional, and they truly deserve recognition for their exceptional work.
Fred Hutch has committed to continuous DEI education to build our capacity in pursuing equity and equip us to co-create inclusive spaces where each of us feels a seamless sense of belonging and the ability to thrive. The Bias Mitigation Education (BME) course, the first step in our comprehensive educational initiative, is completed in three steps: an online pre-work assignment, attending a live module, completing the post-work online.
LGBTQIA+ in Cancer
From delayed diagnoses to missing choices on medical forms to simply not being seen, heard, acknowledged or offered much-needed preventive screening — having cancer while queer can be frustrating, heartbreaking and at times, much harder than necessary. (The word “queer” has become a sort of umbrella term for non-heterosexual individuals and identities including lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer/questioning, Two-Spirit, intersex, asexual and more.)
Fred Hutch researchers have been focused on ways to improve cancer care for LGBTQIA+ people that acknowledges their personal histories and experiences, with the goal of providing inclusive, affirming care.
“People have been turned away from care, made to feel not welcome and been discriminated against — either overtly or through microaggressions,” said Matty Triplette, MD, MPH, a health services researcher and physician who serves as medical director of the Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic at Fred Hutch.
LGBTQIA+ people with cancer aren’t just facing discrimination, distress and delays, however. Other research shows they may also face higher risk of cancer recurrence. And substances like tobacco and alcohol, often marketed directly to communities, have also impacted people’s health and well-being.
As director of Fred Hutch’s Tobacco-Related Health Disparities Research Group, public health scientist Jaimee Heffner, PhD, has been working with LGBTQIA+ adults for several years, coming up with interventions to help people quit using tobacco.
Discovering what’s at the heart of these health disparities and poor outcomes is crucial, especially as the population ages and the number of cancer patients — of all stripes — continues to rise. This is where the collection of self-reported sexual orientation and gender identity information becomes a necessary component.
The two researchers recently launched a pilot study to create a standardized process of collecting SOGI data and pronouns for all patients in order to better serve this community through the entire cancer continuum. The study is in partnership with the National Cancer Institute, or NCI; the National LGBT Cancer Network and Fred Hutch’s Health Equity Program.
“There are minimal things that can make a huge difference to how people feel about navigating a space,” said Triplette. “When a staff person shares their pronouns first, that can make it more comfortable. Many LGBTQIA+ people will walk into a medical space and expect the worst — that they’ll be discriminated against, that they’ll have to explain themselves and face resistance. These are real experiences people have had, and they may avoid care to not have them again.”
Tailored care is especially important for LGBTQIA+ patients with breast or prostate cancer who may need to suppress hormones as part of their treatment, or where surgical decisions may be impacted by gender identity.
Patients with cancer mainly just want to feel seen and accepted, the researchers said.
Matty Triplette, MD, MPH
The GIAS goal is to ensure that all spaces on campus are accessible physically and socially for all members of the Fred Hutch community.
We continue to challenge ourselves to create and sustain a seamless culture of inclusion that enables innovation and excellence in all of our work. We are moving forward, from the diverse composition of our workforce, our patients and clinical trial participants, to the inclusive engagement of our leadership and individual contributors to build our DEI capacity, and providing access to the highest quality of care for everyone. Our work must continue to engage community members as whole partners and to center healing, rather than harm. Our DEI strategy will remain coherent, cohesive, collaborative, and consistent. We are determined to activate practices that are promising, data informed, human centered, transformative, and rooted in our values.
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Written by: Dr. Paul Buckley, John Kubalak, Jenny Rose Ryan and Diane Mapes. Designed by: Stephanie Liszewski and Milly Jeffries