HU Bison Beat October 2021

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Dear Howard University Community, As we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month and LGBT History Month this October, it is important that we consider both monthlong commemorations through the lens of opportunity. Our responsibility as representatives of Howard University is to do our utmost to ensure that all people – especially women, LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color and every intersection of these groups – have equal opportunity to live full and complete lives. The activation of this duty must begin with guarantees of health and wellness.

The origin of the word “health” comes from the old English word for “whole.” By returning the sick to good health, we are helping them re-achieve a wholeness of self and re-pursue the fullness of their potential. Breast cancer renders those who suffer from it incomplete. To be sure, those with cancer are capable of realizing fulfilling lives – but those lives are not as full as they ought to be. When life is disrupted or cut short by cancer, its victims have less time to spend with family, less time to earn wealth that they can pass on to the next generation, less time to explore the breadth and depth of their being. And as women of color are disproportionately dying from breast cancer, this is yet another way that Black women are being deprived of opportunity.


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LGBTQ+ individuals are too often robbed of opportunity to discover the wholeness of their authentic selves. In a society that has long tolerated the subjugation of all that


fails to conform with accepted norms, LGBTQ+ people have suffered indiscriminately. Because they have been deprived of wholeness, so many who identify as LGBTQ+


Campus Happenings


Division Chief of Surgical Oncology Lori Wilson,

have experienced physical and mental health challenges as a result. There should never be a distinction between who a person is and who they are allowed to be.

M.D., on being a cancer surgeon and cancer survivor.

We must marshal our resources and channel the full extent of our energies into these efforts. We have to


Pharmacy doctoral candidate Oluwanifemi

discover the causes of breast cancer and the cures for the

Owoseni shares her current research in the

disease. We have to unconditionally accept our LGBTQ+

development of targeted delivery systems for

classmates and colleagues, friends and family, strangers

the treatment of cancers.

and neighbors to be nothing short of who they are. It is to the detriment of all society when individuals, for any reason, are unable to find health and discover their


Alumna and radiation oncologist Michele Y. Halyard, M.D., on the importance of quality of life during cancer treatment.

full selves. When even one person is cured of breast cancer and one LGBTQ+ person finds a home and a loving community, our world shines brighter because of


Outflanking Cancer

their wholeness. Imagine the world we will inhabit when

The Howard University Cancer Center serves as

we eradicate breast cancer and intolerance from our

headquarters in a full-scale war to fight cancer

midst and entitle all people to unfettered opportunity to

in underserved communities all over the world.

explore who they are and who they can be.


Excellence in Truth and Service,

An Invisible Giant The legacy of Pauli Murray (J.D. ’44) is finally starting to catch up to the trailblazing lawyer’s monumental influence.

W AY N E A . I . F R E D E R I C K


New Bison Appointments Howard welcomes new faces to its leadership

Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery

and staff.


The GRACE Grant

Cover Feature: Cherie Spencer, director of community engagement and Kimberly Higginbotham (MPT ’99), patient navigation coordinator for HU Cancer Center Cover photo by Justin D. Knight

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Campus Happenings Opening Convocation During the 2021 Opening Convocation, President Wayne A. I. Frederick, accompanied by Chairman of the Howard University Board of Trustees Larry Morse, challenged the institution to reexamine the definition of “normal” while embracing a new academic year. “Throughout this crisis, Howard has been a beacon in the night, shining a light on the wrongs perpetrated upon the Black community and illuminating how those wrongs could be made right,” he said during Howard University’s 154th Opening Convocation. “Right now, we must reckon with where we have returned from and determine what we have returned in order to do.” Opening Convocation is a time-honored tradition that officially signals the beginning of the academic year. The address welcomed the Class of 2025 and acknowledged recent achievements of the University during the adversity of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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President Fredrick shared that returning to campus should be a joyous occasion, not because it feels normal, but because Howard has triumphed over incredibly trying circumstances to fulfill a mission and uphold core values. The duty and devotion to educate and enlighten students and others did not cease because the world encountered adversity. On the contrary, the pandemic only served to reinforce Howard’s steadfast determination. “Transformations, evolutions and revolutions – they can only take place when the ‘normal’ is disrupted,” said President Frederick. “The pandemic has reinforced the responsibility we have at Howard University to question the norms that govern our way of life and to insist on the regular remediation and rehabilitation of our social order.” During the online Convocation ceremony, President Frederick pointed to significant recent accomplishments at the institution, including new records in fundraising and enrollment. Howard brought in more research dollars, won more research grants than ever before, and achieved its highest rankings in the U.S. News & World Report. Howard also watched as one of our own Bison shattered multiple glass ceilings en route to being named madame vice president of the United States. “Thank you to our vast community of friends and supporters who understood how instrumental Howard is to our society and provided us with the resources we needed to persevere through these challenging moments,” said President Frederick. View the entire Convocation 2021 ceremony here:

Truth and Service Classic Football Game Kicks Off a New Howard Tradition The crowd of more than 14,000 was on its feet. It was the inaugural Truth and Service Classic football game, a first-of-its-kind and one of the first real in-person events for Howard since the pandemic. Students, parents and alumni representing both Howard University and Hampton University were shouting and clapping their hands, their raucousness reverberating around the stadium – and the game hadn’t even started yet. They were cheering for the coin toss. More specifically, they were cheering for the person who was going to flip the coin. Kamala Harris, Howard alumna and vice president of the United States, made a surprise appearance at the classic between Howard and Hampton on September 18, 2021 at Audi Field in southwest Washington, D.C. When the Jumbotron showed her walking out of the tunnel and onto the Audi Field, wearing a blue blazer and a black mask, the crowd erupted with gasps and cries of “It’s Kamala!” “It means the world [seeing Vice President Harris]. … I’m so glad she’s here,” said Austin Sampson (B.S. ’20). Sampson, who teaches biology at a school in Maryland, was thrilled at the appearance of the vice president. “I tell [my students] every single day: ‘Your vice president, she went to my Alma Mater, and that means a lot to me.’” While the festivities surrounding the event were important, Howard University athletic director Kery Davis also wanted to realize the values behind the name of the classic: truth and service. The morning of the game, Howard’s Rankin Chapel organized a day of service to beautify Anacostia Park. And next year, Davis hopes to organize a debate between Howard and the opposing school to emphasize the value of truth, provided the pandemic allows for indoor programming at the time of the 2022 game. O C T O B E R 2 0 2 1 B I S O N B E AT M O N T H LY N E W S L E T T E R


The energy that filled the stadium during the vice president’s appearance continued throughout the 96th meeting of the historic rivals, dubbed “The Battle of the Real HU.” “I thought the environment was terrific,” says Davis, who began working on the idea for the classic in 2017, when Audi Field debuted as the home of the D.C. United soccer team. “It felt like there was a party going on all throughout the venue.” Davis explains that the size of the venue was critical to achieving the goals of the classic football game. There were places for alumni to meet and network in the Eagle Club and on the Heineken roof deck as well as in the 20 suites throughout the stadium. There was also a band performing in the lower concourse before and during the game. The game was livestreamed by NBC Sports Network with play-by-play by sports commentator Chris Lewis and analysis by former Howard quarterback Jay Walker (B.S. ‘98). Despite Howard losing to Hampton 48-32, Davis considers the event a wonderful success. And the presence of the vice president only served to enhance the environment for all the attendees. “[Vice President Harris] is a

wonderful supporter of Howard University and our athletic program,” he said. “She certainly provided an additional spark to the game.”


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Howard Celebrates National Coming Out Day When more than 50 Howard students gathered in College Hall South for National Coming Out Day on October 11, 2021, many seemed hesitant to share their “coming out” story at first, according to junior Jayda Peets. But after Peets, College of Arts and Sciences Howard University Student Association senator, shared her story and other attendees began to share theirs, momentum kicked in. “It started a domino effect of sharing our stories,” Peets said. She notes that the students’ stories quickly turned more personal, more detailed. People would snap or clap to show their support. While National Coming Out Day is intended to demonstrate that each person has a unique coming out story, Peets said that she wanted the students to know

”you’re not alone in your experience.” Peets hosted and organized the event along with Laten Jordan, vice president of external affairs of CASCADE (Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality), and Iesha M. Daniels, the 83rd Miss Howard University. The purpose of the gathering was to foster a safe community of queer students at Howard. Peets said that, especially since many LGBTQ+ students at Howard might not have support back home, she wants to ensure they feel supported on campus. Throughout the event, Peets stressed to the attendees that “you do have a family, you do have a community here.”

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Reporting While Black: Covering 9/11

Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Cox

surroundings and her fascination with


space and the environment. She also

Jennifer Thomas, associate

pursued her interests in performance,

In recognition of the 20th anniversary

professor and Journalism Sequence

puppetry and fashion. For 35 years and

of the September 11 attacks, the

Coordinator, was a CNN producer

in a segregated city, she empowered art

Department of Media, Journalism and

covering the events from its

students at Shaw Junior High School to

Film held a panel discussion with six Black


see beauty in the everyday and brought

journalists who covered the attacks.

• Independent journalist Clem

cultural enrichment to Black youth. A

Richardson was a columnist at the

leader within her creative community,

Held virtually on September 9, 2021,

N.Y. Daily News, working near the

Thomas shaped the D.C. art scene

“Reporting While Back: Covering 9/11”

Brooklyn Bridge, which was choked

through her association with Howard

offered the unique perspectives of

with thousands of frantic people

University, American University and the

various print and broadcast reporters who

fleeing lower Manhattan.

Barnett Aden Gallery (one of the first

recalled what it was like that day. They

Black-owned private galleries in the


Yanick Rice Lamb, a professor

Sonya Ross, founder and editor of

of journalism and co-founder of She, moderated

In 1966, the Howard University Gallery of

was the print pool reporter for the

the panel.

Art mounted a retrospective exhibition of

Associated Press and was aboard Air Force One with President Bush as he

The Art of Alma Thomas

was evacuated. •

nation), which she helped co-found.

her paintings, which initiated nationwide recognition of her art. In 1971, at age 81, she became the first Black woman to

Hazel Trice Edney, founder of the

The Chadwick

have a solo show at the Whitney Museum

Trice Edney News Wire, was the

A. Boseman

of American Art in New York. In 2015,

Washington correspondent for the

College of

Thomas became the first Black woman to

National Newspaper Publishers

Fine Arts

have a work of art acquired by the White

Association and covered the

joined Mayor

House Collection. She continues to be a

Pentagon after the crash.

Muriel Bowser

trailblazer posthumously as her painting

and other

“Alma’s Flower Garden” (c. 1968-1970)


was sold in March 2021 for a record-

D.C. cultural

breaking $2.8 million.

• Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter

partners to celebrate Alma W. Thomas Day on

Throughout Fall 2021, a variety of

September 22, 2021. This day honored

exciting programs and events will

Howard University’s first graduate

take place alongside the retrospective

from the Department of Art, Alma W.

exhibition “Alma W. Thomas: Everything

Thomas, who earned her degree in 1924.

Is Beautiful” at The Phillips Collection,

Bowser issued an official proclamation

October 30, 2021 to January 23, 2022.

Keith Alexander covered the airline

to acknowledge Thomas’ artistic and

Public programming includes a major

industry for The Washington Post,

educational contributions.

symposium, workshops, exhibitions and

where he now reports on crime and courts. • Independent journalist Melanie

events, including an appearance by former Following her graduation from Howard,

first lady Michelle Obama and other

Thomas created small watercolors, aerial

notable speakers.

Eversley reported from New York as

landscapes and brightly patterned large-

a Washington correspondent for the

scale abstractions that reflect her local


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October 30, 2021 - January 23, 2022: “Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful,” The Phillips Collection| IN-PERSON November 13: “Alma W. Thomas and David Driskell: Journeys in Art,” The Phillips Collection and Howard University | VIRTUAL December 8: “Alma Woodsey Thomas: Beneath the Surface,” National Museum of Women in the Arts | VIRTUAL January 20, 2022: Alma Thomas staged reading of one-act play by local playwright Caleen Jennings, The Phillips Collection | IN-PERSON

October 6, 2023 - April 21, 2024: “Composing Color: Paintings by Alma Thomas,” Smithsonian American Art Museum | IN-PERSON

Ongoing • VIRTUAL + IN-PERSON: SAAM Collection of Thomas, Smithsonian American Art Museum • VIRTUAL: “Drawn to Art: Ten Tales of Inspiring Women Artists,” Smithsonian American Art Museum • VIRTUAL + IN-PERSON: “Alma Thomas DC Heritage Tour,” DC Public Library Visit for more information and details on all events.

Student Spotlight Freshmen volleyball players and twin sisters Bria and Cimone Woodard, who made headlines last year when they decided to switch their commitment from Texas A&M University to Howard, have moved in and settled right into life on campus. The decision was made after the two weighed their options between playing for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) – a Power Five school – and attending an HBCU where they could still play competitively.

“The culture at Howard is unmatched, and there is always something to do on campus, even socially distanced. We receive so much support during our volleyball games, and the energy in Burr gymnasium is something that I always look forward to during home games,” said Bria, who is studying international business. The 6’3” sisters, who hail from the Greater Houston area, are ranked among the top 150 volleyball players in the country. They come from a long line of HBCU graduates, making them the fifth generation in their family to attend one. “I think that an HBCU education is one of a kind,” said Cimone, who is a biology major. “It is a unique experience, where you are surrounded by

others who look just like you, while learning the true history about yourself.”

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Faculty Profile

Lori Wilson, M.D., Patient and Practitioner

Lori Wilson, M.D., FACS, is more than just a cancer practitioner – she was once a breast cancer patient herself. The chief of surgical oncology at Howard University Hospital and program director of the general surgical residency is the first woman to hold the division chief position and credits Howard for giving her the opportunities to rise in her career. As a result, she believes it allows her to help other practitioners and patients succeed. She often speaks about

Q: What do women (and men) need to understand when it comes to the risk of breast cancer? A: Prevention absolutely works. Most people come

in because of symptoms, but eight out of 10 patients are going to be benign. What I want to see in our community is continuing to use early detection [for all cancers]. Mammography, colonoscopies, other

her experience with breast

endoscopy tools to look for developments. When

cancer and translates it into the

we catch things early, then the likelihood of patients

care she provides her patients as

doing well and being CURED is higher. I put “cure”

well as in teaching her students.

in capital letters because we have treatment plans that are well-developed for them specifically, and the cancers don’t come back.


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Q: What was your own experience like as a breast cancer patient? A: My son was one and a half, and I probably had different goals than someone who was twice my age. I wanted to take advantage [of and be in] clinical trials, be part of treatments and be more aggressive, which may be more difficult [for me] to tolerate but the outcomes were noted to be better.

Q: What did you take from that experience to your own patients as a doctor? A: I had my entire family unit – my husband and sister-in-law, all these people in my support network. Meanwhile, I had all these patients who did their treatments alone. It made me realize that there are many patients out there who are not doing this in supportive networks. I wondered, “How do we make sure we are combining that support?” So, we have patient navigators who help them navigate the process from diagnosis to survivorship and beyond. I make sure I understand what their needs are and that what happens in their care often happens outside of my office.

Q: What still surprises you today when it comes to breast cancer? A: What surprises me is the care and innovation that continues to occur. Change is

happening so rapidly, as are identifying methods for characterizing breast cancer and understanding how to treat people more effectively. We’re seeing community-driven programs where women of color are driving what empowerment, innovation and policy means in breast cancer. We want our voices to be heard. There are so many women out there demanding to be a part of the process.

Q: What do you want your students to take away from your teaching? A: We’re treating the whole patient, not just treating the disease process. It’s about understanding who they are, what makes them fearful and what looks like success to them. Health care today is sometimes driven by other elements. Time is a disparity. If I have someone who has less understanding about the disease, it takes me twice [the] amount of time than I’ve given to help patients make the best, well-informed decision. When I do [spend the time], my patients have better understanding, make their decisions specific to them, and they’re happier.

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Q: What does your research focus on? A: Using prostate cancer as a model, my approach is to design targeted drug conjugates with the capacity to deliver multiple drugs to target multiple pathways, which is essential to resolve the resistance and toxicity challenges associated with cancer. More specifically, multiple drugs are conjugated to protease sensitive linkers in the design of the drug conjugates. The free drugs are released only within the tumor microenvironment when the conjugates are exposed to proteases that are overexpressed in tumors. This ensures that the drugs are not released until it is activated proteolytically within the tumor microenvironment. This leads to selective targeting to tumor cells and minimizes off-target toxicity to healthy cells.

Q: How did you come to focus on cancer? A: Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. Cancer has been an ongoing medical challenge, especially with people of color who do not have access to excellent medical

Student Profile

facilities. This leads to poor diagnoses such that the cancer is advanced before detection. My research focus seeks to develop treatment options for people of color with advanced and metastatic cancers, which cannot be treated using other options like radiation. In addition, my focus on prostate cancer stems from the disparities associated with the disease. AfricanAmerican men have far greater incidence of new prostate cancers and are more likely to

Oluwanifemi Owoseni

die from the disease than any other racial/ethnic group. The targeting and drug delivery

Refining Treatment Processes in Cancers

Q: What is something surprising you found in the course of your research? A: Cancers have specific biomarkers. The development of drug delivery systems that target

Oluwanifemi Owoseni

these biomarkers confers selectivity and specificity to cancer cells.

is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Howard. Originally

approaches used for my research can be applied to any other type of cancers or disease condition that require selective drug delivery.

Q: Why is this research important to you? A: One in two women and one in three men will develop cancer in their lifetime. These figures highlight that cancer is not rare but something a large part of the population faces at some point in their life. It’s fulfilling to know that my findings could contribute to the

from Ekiti State, Nigeria,

development of improved drug delivery platforms that will significantly improve efficacy and

she earned a bachelor’s in

reduce the side effects that patients experience.

pharmacy from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and is focusing on targeted delivery systems for the treatment of cancers.

Q: What are your plans after you receive your doctorate? A: My research in targeted drug delivery for prostate cancer has inspired me to apply these experiences to other cancers and diseases that require targeted therapy. In the future, I hope to deploy my talent in research and the development of targeted delivery systems in leading drug discovery and product development in academia, regulatory institutions and pharmaceutical industries.


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Alumni Profile Improving Quality of Life in Cancer Treatments Alumna Michele Y. Halyard, M.D., (B.S. ’82, M.D. ’84) has personal reasons for becoming a cancer specialist: When Halyard was 5 years old, her mother had breast cancer. It was an experience that stuck with her when deciding on her educational and professional paths. She enrolled in the B.S./M.D. program at Howard and completed a three-year residency in radiation oncology at Howard University Hospital. She is now a radiation oncologist with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona and is dean of the Arizona campus of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine.

Q: What made you focus on radiation oncology, specifically? A: My mother lived with the effects of having a radical mastectomy and resultant sequelae until she passed away in her 80s. Watching the impact of cancer therapy on her life led me to my research area of quality of life in cancer patients. I was specifically encouraged to explore radiation oncology by Dr. Alfred Goldson, who was department chair when I was in my third year of medical school.

Q: What are some exciting changes in breast cancer treatment you’ve seen in your career? A: In radiation oncology, we are exploring ways to decrease the total number of treatments delivered to minimize patient burden while providing equivalent outcomes to longer courses of therapy. We are also using cancer genomics to determine who may or may not benefit from both radiation and systemic therapies such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy. In addition, ongoing research is evaluating the ability to minimize the role of surgery, including elimination of full axillary dissection and the future possibility of eliminating surgery altogether. All of these advancements will benefit Black patients by providing precision medicine – care that is tailored to the individual and their disease. In addition, as a field, the systemic therapy options for triple negative breast cancer have advanced substantially, leading to increase survival. This type of breast cancer disproportionally impacts Black breast cancer patients, contributing to earlier onset of breast cancer and inferior breast cancer survival.

Q: You co-founded the Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer. What is the group’s main mission? A: The Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer ( was formed in 2010 to provide support and information to Black breast cancer survivors/patients and their supporters and also to provide education to the Black community about breast awareness; mammography screening; and cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. We engage breast cancer survivors to share their cancer journey to educate others about the need for early diagnosis and screening. We meet monthly and all are welcome to attend. I continue to be surprised at how great the hunger is for Black breast cancer patients and supporters to connect with other Black survivors and trusted Black oncology colleagues, the enthusiasm to give back to others through sharing their story and at how much more work is needed in the Black community to develop trust in participating in clinical trials - which are critical for decreasing cancer mortality in the Black community.

We are launching the Coalition of Blacks Against Prostate Cancer in 2022. Stay tuned! O C T O B E R 2 0 2 1 B I S O N B E AT M O N T H LY N E W S L E T T E R


Outflanking Cancer The Howard University Cancer Center serves as headquarters in a full-scale war to fight cancer in underserved communities all over the world  As a Howard student, Kimberly Higginbotham (MPT ’99) had never heard of the Howard University Cancer Center – until she felt a lump in her breast. She was 23 years old, in her last year of school and in her final physical therapy rotation, when she entered the cancer center for the first time. Her breast cancer diagnosis initiated a lifelong relationship with the cancer center – first as a patient and then as a vital member of the staff.    Today, Higginbotham serves as the Howard University Cancer Center’s patient navigation coordinator, a role she feels perfectly suited for considering her own personal experience.   “I’m a two-time cancer survivor, so I know what [my patients] are going through,” says Higginbotham, who was treated for cancer at the center in 1999 and again in 2015, when she was diagnosed in the other breast. “I try to let them know, ‘Yes, I understand this is overwhelming, but I’m here to help you in any way that I can.’”


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It is Higginbotham’s responsibility to help patients navigate

likely to die from breast cancer. African-Americans have higher

“any barriers” that might get in the way of their treatment – and

morbidity and mortality rates for other cancers as well, and

she means any barrier. She helps patients schedule follow-up

they are also more likely to be diagnosed at more aggressive

appointments on the same day to avoid having to come back to

stages that are more difficult to treat and cure.

the center more frequently than their schedules allow. She sits

in on patients’ appointments with the cancer surgeons, genetic

The reasons for these disparities, however, are complex;

counselors, radiation oncologists and other specialists so she

they defy simple explanations – and require comprehensive

can answer their questions afterward. She helps patients


secure transportation to make their appointments (the

center has patient assistance funds that can be used toward

The center does not start its fight against cancer in the

the purchase of Metro cards and taxi vouchers). She helps

operating room or the doctor’s office. It begins in laboratories

ensure food insecure patients get the nutrition they need (the

and classrooms and in our communities, before a patient ever

center operates a food pantry called the Howard University

sits down on the doctor’s table or puts on a hospital robe.

Cancer Center Hope Chest). She will even literally help patients navigate their way to appointments – she has fielded calls from patients who are in the building but unsure where they are supposed to go.    Higginbotham’s method to fulfilling her own responsibilities is

Phase 1: Conducting Research, Enhancing Knowledge

reflective of the comprehensive approach the cancer center

The cancer center maintains a robust research

takes to fighting cancer – on an individual level and on a

enterprise to find the causes of cancer, the reasons for

communal one.

cancer outcome disparities, and the most promising treatments

and cures.

“We are still operating out of our founding mission, which is to conduct research, education and service with a focus on Black communities,” says Carla Williams, Ph.D., interim director of

The institution has conducted groundbreaking research to identify social, environmental and biologic risk factors for

the center. Under the direction of Dr. Lassall D. Leffall, world-

developing cancer. For example, the center has found genetic

renown cancer surgeon and former chair of Howard’s

links for triple negative breast cancer (a type of cancer that

Department of Surgery, who helped found the center almost 50

tests negative for three types of hormones and proteins)

years ago, in January 1972, and continued under the leadership

and created novel therapies to treat it. The center also helped to

of Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, who

pioneer the method of intraoperative radiation therapy, where

formerly served as director of the cancer center, the institution

radiation is administered on cancer patients during surgery.

was designed to examine the social determinants of health and reduce health inequities.

Researchers at the center have also found links between

discrimination and incidents of cancer. Black women who

As the only full-service cancer center based within an HBCU

struggle to access safe and affordable housing, for instance, are

(historically Black college and university), the center is devoted

at greater risk for developing breast cancer.

to helping individual patients who are predominately African-

“Until recent national attention to COVID disparities and other

American and to improving cancer care outcomes, and reducing disparities, for the Black community – locally, nationally and

health and social injustices, the kind of unique questions that we

even globally.

would ask may not necessarily be asked elsewhere,”

Williams says.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that Black women are 40 percent more O C T O B E R 2 0 2 1 B I S O N B E AT M O N T H LY N E W S L E T T E R


Phase 2: Engaging and Educating the Community

Phase 3: Providing Screenings and Preventive Care

Knowing African-Americans can be at greater risk for a variety

At the end of a community education event, “we always try to

of cancers, the center works to educate the community about

leave a good amount of time for women to ask questions [after]

their risk factors, actions they should take and the resources

we present the information,” says Cherie Spencer, the center’s

available to them.

director of community engagement. “The other thing that we

always do at any community event is we have a screening

Dr. Lori Wilson, professor of surgery, chief of surgical oncology

survey. So everyone fills out a survey, and then that way, we

program and director of the general surgery residency at

can follow up and make sure that they get scheduled to come

Howard University School of Medicine, believes that she has

in for services.”

participated in more than 200 community talks about cancer

care. These talks may take place in church basements or senior

A critical component of the center’s efforts to fighting

centers or at health care fairs, with anywhere from a handful to

cancer is early detection. One of the center’s signature

thousands of people.

features, the Rosemary Williams Mammoday Breast Cancer

Screening Program, provides free and low-cost breast cancer

However, the center realizes that, to engage everyone in the

screening and diagnostic services for uninsured women.

community who needs help and could benefit from its services, they need assistance reaching hard-to-reach people and communities.     “In this work, we are aware enough to realize that we can’t do everything. If we’re really trying to drive down disparities and drive down mortality rates, it has to be a collective effort,” Williams says. “We’ve had long-standing partnerships with organizations that have direct reach into communities.”    Williams specifically mentions the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Organization and Nueva Vida, two organizations that reach immigrant communities who may have language barriers and may be unsure how to navigate the American health care system. With Nueva Vida, the center is reaching out to Latina women who may be at greater risk of breast cancer.    The center’s community outreach extends beyond the greater Washington, D.C. area – far beyond it. Representatives from the center have gone to Nigeria, Ethiopia and other African countries to provide educational services and help stand up programs to help African men and women treat beat their cancer diagnoses.


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The center screens around 200 women a year for breast cancer. the gap in screenings and preventive services experienced by

Taking Care of Yourself This Breast Cancer Awareness Month

under-resourced and often overlooked communities. The center’s

lost-to-follow-up rate, a term used to describe individuals who

Every October, the Howard University Cancer

are screened but never return for follow-up appointments, is also

Center emphasizes the importance of self-care.

significantly less than is typical due to patient navigation. Through

Women must take necessary precautions against

And its dedicated efforts in the community have helped reduce

intensive patient navigation, the total lost-to-follow-up rate for the center was only 3 percent from 2010-2017, and the no-show rate for screening was less than 5 percent.   These efforts to close the gap are critical in helping women and fighting breast cancer, but alone, they’re not enough to close the gap. “Even though we’ve caught up [in many areas], we still see that there [are] a significant cancer care outcome disparities,” says Wilson.   That demonstrates why the cancer center must remain a fullservice, multidisciplinary operation. No one area will be enough to eliminate cancer care outcome disparities once and for all. Increased screenings must be pursued in conjunction with aggressive patient navigation as well as groundbreaking research into the social determinants of health and robust educational

the risk of breast cancer. Here are some key pieces of guidance.    • Know what’s normal for your breast. Skin changes, redness, breast pain that doesn't go away – these should all be brought to the concern of your primary care doctor or breast specialist.  • Know your family history. Black women in particular should be aware of their family histories and their risk factors for developing breast cancer. High incidence of breast cancer in your family means that you should start self-monitoring and receiving regular screening earlier.  • Know your risk of breast cancer. The approach

community outreach programming.

you should take to screening and preventive care

Above it all, what distinguishes the cancer center from other

depends largely on your predisposition to developing

institutions is the way it centers its operations around the needs of its patients. A cancer diagnosis requires more than medical solutions, but social and emotional ones, too.    Higginbotham believes that patients at the center are treated as people – not just names on a list or numbers in a file. “I put my life in these doctors’ and nurses’ hands,” she says. “They really care about the patient. I know that they want me to get better and they really care about me as a person. Other places need to be [more] like us.”

breast cancer. The center has resources to help you determine your individual risk.  • Start your screening for mammograms at age 40. The cancer center provides numerous opportunities for screenings in the community because of how important it is to diagnose breast cancer early. The center is devoted to providing these services regardless of women’s personal wealth or insurance status.  • Make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Increased incidents of breast cancer have been linked to numerous social determinants of health, including nutrition and housing. Take care of yourself, familiarize yourself with your community’s resources and get the help you need to safe, healthy and well.

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An Invisible Giant

Photo credit: Carolina Digital Library and Archives

The legacy of Pauli Murray is finally starting to catch up to the trailblazing lawyer’s monumental influence. At Howard, it is often said that we stand on the shoulders of giants. But sometimes, these titanic figures can be too big to fully take in, their aggrandized bodies so mammoth that our eyes convince our brains that we are standing on hills or mountains rather than on the shoulders of one who worked so hard to rise up in order to grant us these new heights. So was the case with Pauli Murray (J.D. ’44, H. ’17), a figure of monumental importance who, at least in the public consciousness, for so long languished in relative obscurity. However, in recent years, Murray has been receiving a long overdue revival and muchdeserved recognition, culminating with the just-released Amazon Studios documentary “My Name is Pauli Murray.” In many ways, Murray was a person ahead of their time. Murray was a civil rights lawyer, whose legal thinking influenced Ruth Bader Ginsburg to argue against discrimination on the basis of sex and the prevailing legal team behind Brown vs. Board of Education to argue that separate was inherently unequal. Murray was a writer and a poet, who used their pen to speak truth to power and lament the injustices perpetrated against Black Americans and women. Murray was an Episcopal priest, widely regarded as the first woman to ever be ordained in the order. But Murray was also someone who struggled with gender identity; during their lifetime, Murray sought, and was denied from receiving, gender-affirming medical care. While Murray did not use these terms, today Murray is widely considered to be gender nonbinary or gender fluid.


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Murray was certainly cognizant of the public legacy they would

“[Murray is] everywhere,” Crooms says. “The way [Murray] put

leave behind; Murray wrote an autobiography and determined

things together [from a legal perspective] made a lot of sense. It

that their personal files and archives should be housed in

was a precursor to what is now talked about as intersectionality

Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. But Murray did not

and critical race theory.”

speak or write publicly about their gender identity or sexual orientation, despite chronicling these matters privately in great

For someone whose ideas were unavoidable, it was remarkable


how invisible she could be.

Born Anna Pauline Murray, Murray chose to go by “Pauli,”

Crooms theorizes that part of Murray’s burgeoning recognition

a name that was more gender-neutral and in-keeping with

today has to do with Ginsburg’s own meteoric rise in popular

what Murray described as their “he/she personality.” But while

culture. Prior to her death last year, Ginsburg regularly cited

Murray had to struggle privately with their gender identity, they

Murray as one of her primary and most important influences.

also had to suffer publicly from the dual discrimination of being

Greater popular recognition of Ginsburg has led to similar

seen as both Black and female, coining the term “Jane Crow” to

results for Murray.

capture the plight of Black women. But in addition, Crooms believes there are aspects of who Even on Howard’s campus, where Murray graduated from

Pauli Murray is as an individual that resonate strongly with our

the School of Law in 1944, Murray has long been known, but

culture today.

perhaps not in full, and perhaps not to the same extent as some other esteemed alumni. Where Kamala Harris attributed her desire to come to Howard in order to model herself after Thurgood Marshall, someone like Pauli Murray might have had a more subtle pull. Howard students, faculty and staff were likely attracted to the University because of Murray’s ideas,

“In some ways, Murray is in every person,” says Crooms. No matter one’s race, gender identity or sexual orientation, “there’s something [about Pauli Murray] that looks familiar” and is relatable.

even if they never knew Murray’s name. Crooms now teaches a class about Pauli Murray, where she Lisa Crooms (B.A. ’84) has found herself following in Pauli

explores the idea of equality. So, what does equality mean

Murray’s footsteps throughout her educational and professional

according to Murray?

career, first as a Howard undergraduate student and then as a law professor at Howard – though it took some time to

“Ultimate freedom for everyone [means that] all aspects of

discover who was leaving those giant-sized imprints in the

everybody’s humanity [is] recognized and not denigrated,”

ground upon which she tread.

Crooms says. People shouldn’t have to be “stuffed into a box” to receive equality under the law.

Crooms was interested in the legal theories supporting feminism and human rights, when one day, a few years after

Certainly, Murray did not live in a world where Murray’s full

she started teaching at Howard’s School of Law in the mid-

self was recognized, validated and appreciated, where Murray

1990s, J. Clay Smith Jr. (J.D. ’67), former dean of the School of

felt free to match their public persona to their private one.

Law and well-regarded legal historian, recommended that she

And while Crooms believes Murray would consider our society

look into Pauli Murray. At that time, Crooms had never heard

to still be falling short of this standard, perhaps Murray’s

of Murray. But shortly thereafter, Murray started showing up

newfound recognition is acknowledgement of the progress we

wherever Crooms looked.

have made and the direction we are heading.

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Support for

Students on Campus

Ashleigh Tillman, Ph.D., assistant dean of campus life and the on-campus adviser for the Howard student group CASCADE (Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality), has seen how much Howard has grown in terms of accepting LGBTQ+ students since she first started working at the University in 2017 – and where the institution is

wing of a residence hall that’s dedicated to this community of students,” Tillman says. In reflecting on Howard’s social justice mission, Tillman stresses the importance of examining people’s experiences on campus

still looking to improve.

as well as in society at large. As Howard advocates for increased

“[When I first started working in] student activities, there was

ensure that it is adhering to those principles within its own

a mezzanine level of acknowledgement, awareness and activity for LGBTQIA students,” Tillman says. “I think now there is a pronunciation of that, [though] there’s still a significant way for

tolerance and acceptance in the world, the University must walls. “We have to get home right first,” Tillman says.

us to go when it comes to inclusion.” Tillman attributes much of the progress to the HU LGBTQ+ Advisory Council. This group, consisting of students, faculty and staff, has created a forum for conversation and action on meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ students on campus. “The areas that we discuss pretty heavily in our advisory meeting come from an academic lens,” Tillman says. “That [includes] students wanting advocacy in their preferred pronouns.” The council has worked to transform the classroom

Howard Organizations and Resources For those looking to get involved with LGBTQ organizations, or for LGBTQ+ students looking for support, Howard has a variety of organizations and resources, including: • HU LGBTQ+ Advisory Council;

environment by connecting professors with training from the

• CASCADE (Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality);

Safe Zone Project, a resource focused specifically on creating

• oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering,

acceptance and allyship for LGBTQ+ individuals. Outside of the classroom, Tillman says work is currently being done to provide more comfortable residency options for LGBTQ+ students.

“I have supported the student group that’s working with our housing team not only to have gender-neutral housing, but to ultimately have a residence hall or a


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and Mathematics, for LGBTQ+ students in the STEM disciplines); and • Outlaw (for LGBTQ+ students in the School of Law). Howard also hosts the annual LGBTA Renaissance Reception, a charitable event that raises donations for the Lavender Fund, which provides scholarships for LGBTQ+ students. The inaugural Lavender Commencement ceremony was held at the end of the Spring 2021 semester to recognize graduating LGBTQ+ students who played a significant role on campus.

New Bison Stephen Graham joins Howard as the new chief financial

officer (CFO). In this role, Graham oversee the University’s financial operations in line with the Howard Forward strategic plan’s efforts to achieve greater financial sustainability and increase efficiency and effectiveness. He maintains responsibility for all aspects of the financial management of the University, including budget planning and resource allocation, accounting and financial reporting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, procurement, and cash management. He also provides oversight of Howard University Hospital’s financial management and oversees investment management for Howard’s endowment and pension, debt management and capital planning. Graham was CFO at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey for the last 10 years. He was also vice president for budget and planning at Pace University in Briarcliff, New York. He was senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, in Philadelphia and manager at the Siegfried Group, LLP, in Wilmington, Delaware. He also served as an internal audit specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Erica Alexander, OTD/L, CHPC, CFE, CPHQ, is the new

deputy chief compliance officer. In this role, she will be responsible for

leading the compliance oversight for health sciences, which includes the Faculty Practice Plan (FPP) as well as the colleges of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and nursing and allied health. Alexander is charged with overhauling the health sciences compliance and ethics program, including training and awareness, policy development and implementation, hotline management and investigations, and the HIPAA privacy program. She is a certified fraud examiner and earned the nationally recognized certification in health care privacy compliance. Alexander previously served as administrative chief of staff for Inova Health System’s Clinical Enterprise in Northern Virginia, as the chief compliance officer of United Medical Center in Southeast Washington, D.C. and worked for a mid-Atlantic post-acute care organization.

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The GRACE Grant The Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant was established by President Frederick to help remove any financial barriers for students and encourage on-time graduation for students who successfully completed their freshman year. This need-based program, created in 2014, provides a 100 percent match for students who receive the maximum Federal Pell Grant and provides additional funding for those with an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0. Since its inception, GRACE recipients saw an average of 17 percent increase in retention compared to non-GRACE students and an average four-year graduation rate for EFC $0 GRACE recipients of 78 percent. This is 32 percentage points higher than those who did not receive GRACE funds in the same category. In recent years, Howard was fortunate to receive generous donations that were put towards the GRACE Grant. In 2020, author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gave a $40 million unrestricted gift to Howard, of which a percentage helped underwrite the grant. More recently, alumni Eddie C. Brown (B.S. ’60) and C. Sylvia Brown (B.S. ’61) gave the largest alumni donation ever received at Howard, $5 million, towards the GRACE Grant. Eddie Brown is the founder and president of Brown Capital Management in Baltimore, and Sylvia Brown was a teacher for many years. The two had met while students at Howard.

“I was blessed to receive my college education debt-free and I think it’s so important to offer the less fortunate the opportunity to do that,” said Eddie Brown, referring to the scholarship he was awarded that funded his way through Howard. Watch the video that shares their story.


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Enclosed is my gift of $

A Conversation with President Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA

Name: _____________________________________________________________ Title: ______________________________________________________________ Company/Organization: _____________________________________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________ City/State/Zip: ______________________________________________________ If new address, please check: ¨


“The Journey” Last month’s guests included Cynthia

Evers, vice president of Student Affairs;

Dr. Rodger Mitchell, chair of pathology at Howard University College of Medicine;

and Kery Davis, Howard University director of athletics. Topics covered included

returning to campus, COVID-19 concerns and the role of athletics at HBCUs.

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American Express


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