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Black History Month 2023: Celebrating Black Achievements With a Focus on Health Equity



February is Black History month and serves as a time of focus, celebrating and acknowledging the achievements and contributions African Americans have had in the history of the United States. This year, Foundation Medicine’s Black, African, and Hispanic Alliance (BAHA) Employee Resource Network led a series of educational activities and sessions that reinforces our commitment to health equity as well as diversity, inclusion and belonging.  


Black Brilliance

Every week in February, Foundation Medicine featured a Black Scientist both internally and externally on social channels to share further information on individuals whose discoveries and contributions have impacted the scientific field. Katherine Johnson, Alexa Candady, Lonnie G. Johnson, Jane C. Wright were just a few Black Scientists that were highlighted during Black History Month. The Black Highlights series was an opportunity to increase awareness and educate our workplace community on the scientific advances made by Black people in the US.  


It’s All in the Data

On February 15th, during BAHA’s general body session, Dr. Douglas Mata, Foundation Medicine’s lead pathologist and the lead author in the New England Journal of Medicine publication Disparities According to Genetic Ancestry in the Use of Precision Oncology Assays, presented highlights from this recent piece of research. Using Foundation Medicine’s cancer genomic database, FoundationCore®, researchers examined the use of Foundation Medicine’s next-generation sequencing (NGS) assays according to genetic ancestry of patients. The researchers retrospectively analyzed 620,500 solid-tumor and liquid-biopsy samples, representing patients from all 50 states, that had been submitted to Foundation Medicine for sequencing between April 2013 through September 2022. Key findings from the data show that the number of patients who underwent NGS testing increased with time, and, in particular, the use of NGS among underserved racial and ethnic groups also increased. The data indicates that, while there are still disparities in cancer outcomes, access to NGS testing is heading in a positive direction for all traditionally underserved racial and ethnic groups, particularly for patients with African ancestry.  The meeting also continued in the theme of Health Equity and included a robust and frank group discussion on three articles: Racial and Ethnic Health Care Disparities, Coffee Lowers Risk of Heart Problems and Early Death, Study Says, Especially Ground and Caffeinated and Gene Discovery May Explain Why More Women get Alzheimer’s Disease than Men. 


Courage Will Not Skip This Generation

On February 22, BAHA held an event “The Other America: Injustices in Health” featuring Dr. Michael Curry. Dr. Curry is the President & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, which represents 52 health centers, serving over one million patients out of over 300 practice sites. Dr. Curry is an authentic change agent. His presentation reviewed the stark data that exists today in America regarding health inequities.  Social determinants of health, cancer, maternal and infant mortality due to disparities, were some of the many startling statistics shared during the session.  On the positive side Dr. Curry highlighted the formation of the Health Equity Compact, an organization that brings together over 50 Black and Latin leaders across hospitals, health centers, payers, academic institutions and public health – to advance health equity in Massachusetts. 
With engagement with the Foundation Medicine community, and our partners, this month has been a reminder to continue to celebrate Black achievements and continue to focus on health equity throughout the year. 


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