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Fred Hutch announces 9 recipients of the Dr. Eddie Méndez award

The annual honor recognizes postdoctoral cancer biology researchers from underrepresented minority groups
Dr. Christopher Li speaks during the Eddie Méndez Postdoctoral Symposium last June at Fred Hutch
Dr. Christopher Li speaks during the Eddie Méndez Postdoctoral Symposium last June at Fred Hutch Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

SEATTLE – May 5, 2020 – Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has announced nine recipients of an award honoring the late Dr. Eddie Méndez, a physician-scientist and cherished colleague at Fred Hutch.

Fred Hutch leaders created this award last year to recognize Dr. Eddie Méndez and his commitment to supporting early-career scientists, particularly those from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds. Méndez, who died of cancer two years ago at age 45, is remembered as an advocate for young scientists and for being committed to cancer research.

“The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is deeply proud of this year’s awardees.  We are excited to see the Méndez Award expand the recognition of postdoctoral scientists from diverse communities and the Hutch’s capacity to engage with them,” said Dr. Paul Buckley, administrative director of the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, or ODEI, at Fred Hutch. “This program is one of the Hutch’s efforts to expand the pipeline of diverse scientists here and other institutions like our own.  This is a high priority for us to achieve our mission,” he added.

“We have been able to increase the number of awardees, and this year we are recognizing an outstanding group of nine postdoctoral fellows whose research spans basic sciences to public health sciences and focuses on various cancers and infectious diseases,” added Dr. Christopher Li, the Faculty Director for the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and who chaired this year’s award selection committee.

Méndez, a native of Puerto Rico, attended Princeton University and then obtained a medical degree from University of Maryland at Baltimore. He later came to University of Washington as a resident, where he became known for expertise in head and neck cancers. Méndez was known for being passionate about developing new therapies to help prevent cancer treatment side effects and save his patients’ lives.

Solicited from universities and cancer research centers around the U.S, this year’s awardees reflect the spirit of Méndez and represent a breadth of topics and fields. Their research interests include T cell therapies, cancer outcomes among HIV-positive patients, health disparities in American Indians, and acute myeloid leukemia therapies.

Of the award recipients, Li said, “Each awardee has made substantial contributions to both research and to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in science. We deeply appreciate support from center leadership to continue this important program aimed at recognizing outstanding early-career, underrepresented minority scientists as we work to develop a more diverse workforce.”

The award includes an honorarium for the recipients, and they are usually honored at a symposium where they give presentations on their research findings. While originally scheduled to be held later this month, the symposium has been postponed to the fall.

2020 Dr. Eddie Méndez Award recipients

Dr. Daniel Arango, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute

Pau Castel,  Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco, Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center

Marc A. Emerson, Ph.D., M.P.H.
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Jami R. Erickson, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Melissa V. Fernandez, Ph.D., M.Sc.
National Cancer Institute

Nicholas C. Gómez, Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University

Jessica Yasmine Islam, Ph.D., M.P.H.
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Yadira M. Soto-Feliciano, Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University

Christina Marie Termini, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

Note: Photos of award recipients and more information on their projects are available – contact Natalie Myers for details.

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Media Contact:

Natalie Myers                                                
namyers@fredhutch.org                

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

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