Nadine Barrett, PhD, Founding Director, Duke CTSI (Clinical Translational Scientific Institute) Center for Equity in Research, and Associate Director, Community Engagement and Stakeholder Strategy at DCI and Duke CTSI
There is nothing like a family giving a testimony about the impact that a person has had not just in our community but in their lives as a family. I think I speak for all of us here, I'm honored that you have taken the time to share another piece of MaryAnn, your sister, and for your family to share her with us to make our community better and most certainly toward us making a difference toward advancing health equity. So, thank you so much.
I want to highlight Valarie (Worthy) and Kim (Monroe) who were with us when we started the Office of Health Equity and Disparities.
I'm the founding director of The Office of Health Equity and Disparities for the Duke Cancer Institute, the first office of its kind and certainly one that led nationally and locally in terms of making a difference. And the key person that was a part of that from the very beginning was Dr. Mike Kastan who shared some reflections last night, which was really moving; talking about the impact that MaryAnn Black had when he first came here as director of the Duke Cancer Institute.
On Community Engagement
We all talk about what authentic engagement means. MaryAnn was very clear on what that meant. It didn't mean 'keep getting the community involved.' It didn't mean 'making sure you asked the community a quick question and then go and do what you do.' It meant, 'you're in the community, with the community, working together with the community, and ensuring that the priorities, the feedback, the insights of the community, is integrated into everything we do.' So, when we started the Office of Health Equity and Disparities MaryAnn was instrumental in bringing together with Valarie and others an amazing Advisory Council. They were people who were movers and shakers in the community whom MaryAnn knew very well and they were grassroots people whom MaryAnn knew very well and they were patients whom MaryAnn knew very well. She did not hold back on ensuring that she had not just an impact on everyone's lives, especially those who are marginalized, but she was involved with every stakeholder that played a part in improving health — from the patient to the community, the family, the caregivers, you name it MaryAnn had them involved. So when I looked at our Community Advisory Council that's what it reflected. It reflected her heart, her passion, and all of those who are involved in really and truly making a difference for our community. So through that Office, we did a lot of great things. It was foundational.
I remember the day that I met MaryAnn when I first started at Duke 11 years ago... She made sure that we met once a month, faithfully. We also shared a common birthday. It wasn't the same day, but my birthday is October 1st and hers is the 3rd. So on October 2nd of every year she and I would head on down to the Umstead and have lunch. It was great because we would talk about a lot of things. She wasn't just interested in 'how are you working' but 'how are you taking care of yourself,' 'how are you taking care of your community,' and 'what are the things that you're doing now, Nadine, and how is it working for you.' And we would really share things back and forth with each other to find out how we make sure that we never lose sight of our community and make sure that we're fully engaged with who we're talking to.
MaryAnn was instrumental in helping us (director Mike Kastan, deputy director Steve Patierno, and Valarie Worthy) on the back side of things. We brought together a room full of over 321 community members and providers to talk about how we improve cancer care access and quality. We actually had a waiting list of about 85 people because we had met capacity at the Marriott. It wasn't just bringing people together, but it led to a report and we developed a strategic plan with the community. This was the heart, passion, and commitment, that MaryAnne instilled.
It was something that we all were really committed to, as people who want to see our family members, people who look like us, get the great care that they need when they need it and in the quality they deserve.
I think that some of us remember (the late) Dr. Sharon Bynum Elliott and all of these incredible people who were a critical part of that network. Our Community Advisory Council became a family and it's because we all knew one thing — we wanted to make a difference, we had to make a difference, and we had to speak for those who have no voice. That was a critical part of what we did at the Cancer Institute.
When we look at MaryAnn, we look at her impact on politics, we look at her impact on Duke, and we look at her impact on the community. Even while serving in the political realm, in all of those areas, she never lost her focus on the community. She never lost focus on what is it that we need to do to make a difference.
On Last Words & Legacy
A few weeks before she passed, I actually called her and she answered the phone and I'll never forget that last call. I said, 'MaryAnn, how are you doing, what's going on.' And she goes, 'Wait, tell me what you are doing, tell me some stories, what impacts are you having in the community.' That's all she wanted to hear, talk about, and listen to.
To me, her legacy is that no matter what I'm doing, where I am, or where I go, it is important for me to never ever lose sight of our community. Never ever lose sight of why we do the work that we do within the Cancer Institute and beyond and never ever stop being relentless; ensuring that we are doing everything — all the work personally and in our jobs — to make a difference in bringing down structural systemic racism and advancing equity in our society.
We can continue to keep her legacy alive by ensuring that everything we do when we come through our doors and when we're at home and in the grocery store is about advancing equity, making change, and treating people the way that they deserve to be treated regardless of what your own personal beliefs may be.