The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ensuing protests in Seattle and cities across the country prompted Fred Hutch and our employees to take action. Over the last two weeks we have spent time listening, sharing and understanding the social realities that are shaping our work, our workplace climate and our broader community.
We convened dialogue sessions with the Fred Hutch community about racism. Hosted by leadership and led by our Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, these sessions engaged employees in a structured and facilitated dialogue that allowed participants to share their perspectives, pursue understanding and uplift human dignity.
While our efforts to address these realities are ongoing, based on what we heard, we are taking action now to promote change at our organization and in the community — and end racial injustice.
Today, many of our staff are taking a paid personal expression day to participate in the protest being organized by Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. While we are keeping our campus open because many labs are ramping back up their work on cures for cancer, HIV and COVID-19, we want to support people’s desire to join in the protest. Everyone at the Hutch has the opportunity to take a personal expression day, if not today then at a time they choose, to support the Black Lives Matter movement or another social justice issue important to them.
For our staff who are protesting, we shared guidance for employees to help them limit the risk of exposure, protect themselves and protect our community from COVID-19.
The Hutch is also taking the position that the use of tear gas and rubber bullets on nonviolent protestors is abhorrent and must be ended.
As a research organization working on cancer, HIV and other diseases, we focus on the science behind these health threats in our efforts to develop cures and therapies to end the human suffering they cause. The science behind tear gas and rubber bullets is clear — their use is unsafe and can lead to health issues — and human suffering.
We have supported legislation and regulation to address public health issues such as smoking — which research shows leads to cancer and many other health issues — and research has shown the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police is a similar public health issue that needs to be stopped.
Earlier this year we hired Dr. Paul Buckley to help lead our Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, or ODEI. He, Dr. Christopher Li and their team have been spending the last few months listening, learning and assessing what Fred Hutch should do to drive greater diversity among our faculty and staff. In the coming weeks ODEI will be releasing its recommendations on the next steps our organization should take to sustain meaningful changes to our practices and culture.
In addition to these efforts, we will continue our work through the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research, the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement and across the Hutch to understand the scale of health disparities and close the gaps to reduce the incidence and mortality rates from cancer and other diseases.
In the same way that we conduct research of the highest standards to improve prevention and treatment of cancer and related diseases, the Hutch will take action to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable organization — and help end racial injustice.