3rd Annual DEI Summit looks to the future

Stakeholders across Fred Hutch and external partners meet to celebrate progress, inspire future work

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DEI Summit
More than 150 participants met in person to celebrate progress in diversity, equity and inclusion, and plan for the future Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

On June 12, representatives from across Fred Hutch met at the organization’s third annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit, Integrating Critical Change for Critical Cures. Held at the Seattle Art Museum, the gathering was the first DEI summit since Fred Hutch merged its research and clinical endeavors in 2022. The 2023 symposium offered the opportunity for participants to take stock of past progress, and gain inspiration for future progress, as the organization builds on the promise and potential offered by a fully integrated cancer center, said Associate Director of DEI Learning, Client Services & Data Analytics Joe Ungco, OTD, during their opening remarks.

“We are making very good progress as we learn to mitigate biases and enact policies and practices that more positively impact all communities in accordance with our values,” said Fred Hutch Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Paul Buckley, PhD. “However, we are still early — very early — on our journey, still developing the DEI infrastructure of practice and care, and still involving your partnership to ensure our center wide efforts are sustained.”

More than 150 participants attended the summit in person, with several hundred more connecting virtually. Participants came from across Fred Hutch and included representatives from external partners like Virginia Mason and the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, as well as vendors.

DEI Summit participants
Internal and external stakeholders participated in the summit held at the Seattle Art Museum. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Featured speaker Edwin Lindo, JD, assistant dean for Social and Health Justice within the Office of Health Care Equity at the University of Washington School of Medicine, spoke about the commitment needed to sustain DEI efforts as we work toward justice.

In her keynote speech, Jennifer Reese, PhD, FSBM, associate professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, described the unique sexual health needs — and potential health care gaps — of cancer patients and survivors in the LGBTQ+ community.

Buckley reflected on the activism and legislation of the 1960s that laid the foundation for today’s DEI efforts, as well as the critical work still needed to realize the potential of this legislation and to resist current legislation that are antithetical to the spirit of DEI.  

“DEI is like oxygen. … So when we do the uncomfortable work of naming gaps in research, clinical trials, quality of care, employee experience, we do so by centering human beings and the collective vision for honoring human dignity as the first functional and dignified practice,” he said. “This is exciting. This is hard, but this is exciting and incredibly important and rewarding work.”

Delegates participated in concurrent learning sessions followed by interactive brainstorming sessions to build on DEI foundations laid over the last three years.

Dr. Edwin Lindo
UW Associate Dean for Social Health Justice Dr. Edwin Lindo encouraged participants to reinvent how they build community. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Ensuring that everyone is welcome in health care

Lindo reflected on his journey in activism and how to find the inspiration and drive to pursue equity and inclusion even when resources and social enthusiasm run low.

“What I want to know is what drives us when the work gets really, really difficult,” he said. “I think we get creative … we hold steady in the work, we are committed to this work because it is our mission, it is in our values.”

Community building between people within research or health care and people in underserved communities often falters because it’s approached transactionally, Lindo said. He encouraged summit participants to rethink what community can mean, and to take a relationship-first approach.

“Why is this such a difficult work? It's difficult because if you put it in the arc of history, we've never actually seen justice before. We don't know what it feels like. We don't know what it smells like. We don't know what that texture of justice even looks like,” Lindo said. “And I hope that we can imagine this world of justice that we've never seen before, whether it's in your research, whether it's in your care or in your teaching … because we're asking us to do something that has never happened before.”

Dr. Jennifer Reese
Fox Chase Cancer Center's Dr. Jennifer Reese spoke on the unique sexual health, identity and relationship needs of people from the LGBTQ+ community. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Reese works to develop evidence-based interventions to improve sexual health outcomes, relationships and quality of life for those affected by cancer. In her keynote speech, she addressed the unique needs of people in the LGBTQ+ community who are receiving or have received cancer treatment.

“I’m really thrilled and honored to be here with you all today to share what I hope will be eye-opening and really start some conversations,” she said.

"Medical providers, trained in the use of sexual assessment tools developed with the needs of straight cisgender people in mind, may overlook and leave unaddressed the needs of gay, bisexual, queer and/or trans people who are receiving or have received treatment for cancer. How cancer and treatment side effects affect a patient relates to their self-identity, relationships, and particular sexual activity. While some tools have been adapted to include more patients, cancer specialists need to find welcoming strategies for helping patients discuss their sexual and emotional health needs as they grapple with cancer and treatment side effects, as well as helping connect patients to LBGTQ-welcoming counselors," she said.

“The take-home message here is that sexual function, identity and identity problems are common, distressing and diverse in LGBTQ+ cancer survivors,” Reese said. “Patients can differ in their priorities and health. That’s why it’s important to have an open dialog. It’s also important not to assume that the patient is heterosexual or engages in a certain type of sexual activity,” Reese said. 

DEI Summit participants watch a pre-recorded presentation on DEI progress at Fred Hutch.
Several Fred Hutch teams presented on progress and future plans in DEI. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Groups across organization report progress in DEI work

Teams from across Fred Hutch reported on the DEI benchmarks achieved and strategies implemented in the past year.

  • Statistical Center for HIV/AIDS Research and Prevention
    SCHARP focuses on domestic and international HIV prevention and vaccine studies. In addition to achieving a 90% participation in the Bias Mitigation Education workshop, the team organizes regular educational events. SCHARP collaborated with the DEI Core to pilot a three-hour Microaggressions Workshop.
  • Office of Community Outreach & Engagement
    OCOE presented progress by the Community Grants Program to enhance the financial resources and technical assistance the Fred Hutch/UW Cancer Consortium offers to community-led organizations. New partnerships enabled the CGP to increase funding offered and to match each awardee with a community health educator for project support. Funded projects address the social determinants of health across a diverse range of ages, cancer sites, race and ethnicities, and gender identities.
  • Service Excellence Program
    The newly created program is dedicated to creating, developing and sustaining a culture of consistent service excellence. The goal is to improve and standardize care and in harmony with key values of inclusion, safety, accessibility, collaboration and strong relationships.
  • Philanthropy
    The Philanthropy Department outlined its DEI goals and steps to achieve them. The department’s workplan is centered around three main goals: to create an anti-racist environment where BIPOC staff thrive and donors from all communities are inspired to support Fred Hutch; to create specific, actionable goals and tactics which support all programs and are embraced by all Philanthropy colleagues; and to establish Philanthropy as a leader in DEI efforts within Fred Hutch and in the field.  

Following the summit, the DEI Core will be producing its 3rd annual report on the organization’s efforts that is planned to publish in the early fall.  

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