As I write to you, I struggle to make sense of what has happened in the last 90 days or so. A global pandemic has killed almost 400,000 people globally, over 100,000 in the US alone. Most of our economy closed itself down and we were all confined to quarters. Over 40 million people in the US are unemployed and they are the people least able to afford it.
And then we all watched in horror, the death of George Floyd, in a senseless display of force by the very people tasked with upholding the law and protecting us. The protests that followed and continue each night with some peaceful protest that is heartening and some horrible scenes of violence and destruction, have made me question how we got here and why we haven’t addressed the issues that were laid bare in the aftermath. It has made me ask whether I have done enough personally to be part of the solution and what I can and should do now to make a difference. Many of my friends feel the same way. Perhaps you have asked yourself the same question?
There is an unfortunate common theme between the pandemic and one of the sources of anger in the black and brown community. The recent gains in employment and unemployment in the black and Hispanic community have been undone almost overnight. Along with their paychecks they lost their health insurance, if they had health insurance to begin with, since black and brown Americans are far less likely to have health insurance.
Additionally The pandemic hit people of color in the US much harder than it hit the white population. There is ample evidence that the cause of the disproportionate morbidity and mortality is the high levels of underlying medical issues and a lack of proper health care in poor communities. Everything from nutrition to primary care, health insurance and health education contribute to the issue.
As I think about what my contribution to the solution will be in the future, I want to thank you for what you have already done-perhaps without even realizing it. Let me explain.
You all know that the Taylor Matthews Foundation (tay-bandz) is committed to saving the lives of children with cancer through research and novel treatments-all children. Most of our grants have gone to research at Columbia University Medical Center and most of that has focused on precision medicine. All of the 2019 and 2020 grants to Columbia went to cover the cost of sequencing the tumors of relapsed kids or those who didn’t respond to treatment. Insurance companies barely reimburse or don’t reimburse at all-assuming you have insurance. It can literally be the difference between giving a child the sequencing that may save their lives or not based on ability to pay.
What you may not know is that Columbia, despite being the more prestigious medical school and more highly regarded hospital versus it’s downtown sister hospital, has funding challenges that reflect the demographic of its neighborhood. Their patient base is highly disproportionate in terms of the socioeconomic mix of patients. Much of the patient load is a function of where the hospital is located-in and near poor and predominantly minority neighborhoods. The result is a very high percentage of patients who are poor, uninsured or underinsured. They are largely people of color. While you and I would do the sequencing for our children regardless of reimbursement, for many of Columbia’s patients that is not an option. The reason that so many poor and minority children are getting sequenced is you! Columbia treats each child regardless of the ability to pay because of tay-bandz. And you are tay-bandz.
So besides saving kids in real time, you are taking a small bite out of a big disparity in healthcare for the minority community. I can’t tell you how proud I am of what tay-bandz is doing for kids but more importantly I can’t thank you enough for the years support you have given tay-bandz.
To all of you, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. You are making the world a little brighter.