Beti Thompson Awards: Tackling health disparities

2019 winners ‘compassionate,’ ‘committed’ advocates for underserved communities
Dr. Beti Thompson speaks at the Pathways to Equity Symposium, held Friday at Fred Hutch. During the symposium she presented two public health awards named in her honor. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on Friday honored two individuals for their compassionate and tireless work addressing health disparities in Washington state.

  • Cristina Del Alma, a former health assistant from Public Health Seattle/King County’s Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program, received the Beti Thompson Community Health Trailblazer Award. She was honored for her work helping clients who needed cancer screenings and treatment navigate barriers to care, including language, transportation and lack of knowledge of the U.S. health care system. Two BCCHP colleagues, Amy Duarte and Heather Fluegel, accepted the award on Del Alma’s behalf, adding that the recent retiree was “literally trailblazing on a hiking trail somewhere.”
  • Dr. India Ornelas, an associate professor at the University of Washington, received the Beti Thompson Cancer Health Equity Research Award. Her research focuses on how social and cultural factors influence health and the development of interventions to address health disparities. Specifically, she partners with communities to develop and test culturally relevant interventions in the areas of mental health, substance use and cancer prevention. 
Dr. India Ornelas accepts the Beti Thompson Cancer Health Equity Research Award from its namesake Friday at Fred Hutch.
Dr. India Ornelas of the University of Washington accepts the Beti Thompson Cancer Health Equity Research Award from the award's namesake Friday at Fred Hutch. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Both awards are named after Dr. Beti Thompson, a community-based participatory research practitioner at Fred Hutch. Thompson has devoted her research career to helping underserved populations by working with community partners and stakeholders to develop culturally relevant interventions that address public health concerns brought forth by the community.

Thompson presented the awards May 10 at the annual Pathways to Equity Symposium, which was held on the Fred Hutch campus. Dr. Fred Appelbaum, Fred Hutch’s executive vice president and deputy director, kicked off the event by noting the Fred Hutch/ University of Washington Cancer Consortium’s commitment to reducing the burden of cancer for everyone.

A graphic that reads "Good News at Fred Hutch" and "Read more."

But the consortium can’t do that alone, he stressed. “We need to partner with community leaders and organizations throughout Washington state to export the knowledge we create here,” Appelbaum said. “Knowledge is great, but unless we export it to the people who need it, it just sits on a desk. That’s not our goal.”

The annual symposium is hosted by Fred Hutch’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement. It brings together researchers, health care workers, and representatives from community groups to discuss ways to bridge gaps in health equity. This year’s event explored topics like:

  • Culturally tailored interventions to increase cancer screening.
  • The Medical-Legal Partnership model in Washington state.
  • What community organizations are doing to foster health equity.

Read more about Fred Hutch achievements and accolades.

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