First Lady Jill Biden and Queen of Spain Visit Columbia

Just days ahead of World Cancer Research Day on Sept. 24, First Lady Jill Biden and Queen Letizia of Spain visited Columbia’s medical campus to hear about Columbia’s strides in cancer research and efforts to address health inequities. Dr. Biden and Queen Letizia, who serves as honorary president of the Spanish Association Against Cancer, share an interest and commitment in fighting cancer and the need for scientific cross-collaborations.

Anil K. Rustgi, MD, director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Irving Professor of Medicine at VP&S, welcomed Dr. Biden and Queen Letizia to Columbia, where they met with cancer researchers involved in global collaborations. Raul Rabadan, PhD, professor of systems biology and of biomedical informatics, discussed his collaboration with the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre to apply computational approaches to identify high-risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Chin Hur, MD, professor of medicine and a specialist in cancer screening and gastrointestinal cancer prevention, shared details about the cancer center’s partnership with several hospitals in the Dominican Republic to address the increasing rates of cancer deaths in that country.

They also heard from Mary Beth Terry, PhD, a Mailman faculty member and director of the cancer center’s community outreach and engagement office, who discussed the National Cancer Institute-funded YES! in THE HEIGHTS program, a summer internship for high school and undergraduate students intended to increase the number of underrepresented and under-resourced youth entering STEM fields. Andrew Lassman, MD, associate dean of clinical trials at Columbia and chief of neuro-oncology, explained the cancer center’s efforts to increase participation of underrepresented groups in clinical trials and to increase diversity among clinical researchers.

The visit reinforced President Joe Biden’s expansion of Cancer Moonshot, with new goals set to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years and to improve the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer.

“None of us can beat cancer alone,” said Dr. Biden at the Sept. 21 visit. “It takes all of us, sharing our best ideas and practices, working together to ease the burden on patients and their families, and creating the kind of care that saves lives. Together, we can give our people the future they deserve, no matter where they call home.”