Fred Hutch statement on racist act involving a senior staff member

SEATTLE — Feb. 16, 2022 — In mid-January, our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion received an anonymous email attaching a photo of a member of the senior leadership team engaged in racist behavior by dressing as Michael Jackson, including blackface, as part of a Halloween celebration in 2009.

The act depicted in the photo is racist, offensive and hurtful, and we offer our sincere apologies to anyone who has experienced pain or upset because of the act or this photo.

In response, we hired an independent, external investigator, and we placed Dr. Julie Overbaugh, the leader in the photo, on an administrative leave of absence while the investigation was under way. The investigator talked with members of Dr. Overbaugh’s lab as well as some of her peers and coworkers to determine whether Dr. Overbaugh exhibited a pattern of inappropriate behavior of any kind in the past or at any time while employed at Fred Hutch. The investigator found this was an isolated incident.

Dr. Overbaugh has stepped down from her senior vice president role at Fred Hutch. She will continue working in her lab and will take a hiatus from her leadership duties in the Office of Education & Training. During this time, she will engage in an intensive education and reflection process.

“As the president of Fred Hutch, it’s my responsibility to uphold our commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution that affirms the equal rights, value and protection of all people, races, gender identities and religions on our campus and in our science,” said Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, Jr., president and director and holder of the Raisbeck Endowed Chair. “At all levels of the organization, we must engage in individual and collective efforts to actively address inequities and offenses.”


About Fred Hutch

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 National Cancer Institute-funded 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 and the COVID-19 Prevention Network.


Phone: 206-667-2210

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