MaryAnn Black
MaryAnn Black

The MaryAnn Black Distinguished Health Equity Symposium, a "Duke 100" Event







Durham Convention Center
301 W. Morgan St.
Durham, NC 27701
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Duke 100 logo 1924 to 2024

In January 2024, Duke University launched a celebration of its centennial — a historic opportunity to recognize Duke’s extraordinary past, communicate the impact of the present, and look toward the potential of Duke’s future. The celebration, which will culminate with Commencement in May 2025, will include a robust array of events, activities, and programs planned by faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

The Centennial is a perfect opportunity to recognize the people and milestones that have had a great impact on Duke University and will launch us into our second century.

Duke Cancer Institute, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, is proud to participate in one of the Duke Centennial Celebration's signature events — the 2nd annual MaryAnn Black Distinguished Health Equity Symposium, in honor of the late MaryAnn Black.

Duke Cancer Institute Community Outreach, Engagement, and Equity (COEE) program is hosting the event with the support of Duke Health Community Health, the Duke University School of Medicine Department of Population Health Sciences, the Duke University School of Medicine Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and the Duke Clinical & Translational Science Institute.

Ms. Black was a powerful advocate for health equity on behalf of Duke University, the Duke Health System, and Duke Cancer Institute, in her role as associate vice president for Community Relations for the Duke University Health System. She mentored and supported numerous individuals across Duke who are today’s leaders in advancing community engagement and health equity.

She personified institutional pride. Her work on behalf of Duke with Durham and surrounding communities, and her years of service with the Durham County Board of Commissioners and the North Carolina State Legislature, the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, and Durham schools, community agencies, and civic organizations, is a shared legacy and inspirational roadmap for Duke’s commitment to excellence in advancing health equity over the next century.

Ms. Black, who also served for 30 years as a clinical social worker, transcended silos by collaborating with anyone, anywhere, to find solutions to meet the needs of our community. The Symposium, which brings together Duke and community leaders committed to health equity, reinforces Duke’s longstanding history of working collaboratively with communities in our backyard to understand and address the root causes of health disparities.

This year's event is being held at the Durham Convention Center this year in honor of Ms. Black's boots-on-the-ground, ‘meet people where they are’ approach.


3:00 PM to 4:00 PM (Appetizers)

Poster Session

Students, trainees, representatives from community organizations, researchers, and healthcare professionals will highlight their work to advance health equity in the community.

Poster categories include:

  • YOUTH Work led by youth (younger than 25 years old) that advances health equity 
  • POLICY Work to advance healthcare policy to improve health and reduce disparities
  • COMMUNITY HEALTH Work that reduces the burden of disease for communities

Duke participants in the poster session include: Leda Scearce, CCC-SLP, MM, MS (Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences), Alexandria James (DCRI), Kenisha Bethea (CTSI), Salima El-Amin (CTSI), Schenita Randolph (DUSON), Andrea Thoumi (Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy), Vibhav Nandagiri (Duke University), Zhenchun Yang (DGHI & The Nicholas School for the Environment), Fariha Rahman (Dept. of Population Health Sciences), and many others, inc. from UNC and from the local community.

Abstract submissions were reviewed and evaluated for the a) quality and impact of their work to advance health equity in the community and among resource-constrained populations b) the potential and impact in meeting the needs of the community, and c) a demonstrated commitment to advancing health equity over the next century.

4:00 PM to 4:35 PM

Welcome Remarks 

Duke Cancer Institute Executive Director Michael Kastan, MD, PhD, will welcome attendees to the symposium. Kastan, who joined DCI and Duke in 2011, is the William and Jane Shingleton Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. He has served as Chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), on the Boards of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Association of Cancer Institutes (AACI), and as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Molecular Cancer Research.


MaryAnn Black's son Jonathan Black and niece Thelma Brooks will speak 

headshot of Mary Klotman
Mary Klotman, MD

Opening Remarks

A nationally recognized leader in academic medicine, Mary E. Klotman, MD, is Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at Duke University, Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, and Chief Academic Officer for Duke Health. Prior to her appointment as dean in 2017, Klotman served with distinction as chair of the Department of Medicine in the Duke University School of Medicine for seven years. A pioneering physician-scientist, Klotman’s research interests are focused on the molecular pathogenesis of Human Immunodeficiency Virus 1 (HIV-1) infection. 

Headshot of Tomi Akinyemiju
Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD


DCI COEE Associate Director Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD, will deliver an introduction. Akinyemiju is a professor of Population Health Sciences, Global Health and Ob/Gyn with expertise in cancer epidemiology, cancer biology, global health, and health disparities. Her research expertise and accomplishments have focused on articulating and innovating conceptual and empirical approaches for cancer health disparities research, specifically, disentangling the role of race as a social construct and race-associated biological mechanisms that contribute to cancer disparities.

headshot of Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH
Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH

4:35 PM to 5:30 PM


Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH — former New York State Health Commissioner (2021-22) and current director of the François- Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University — will be the keynote speaker. Bassett is also FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

With more than 30 years of experience devoted to promoting health equity and social justice, both in the United States and abroad, Bassett’s career has spanned academia, government, and not-for-profit work.

Bassett’s many awards and honors include the prestigious Frank A. Calderone Prize in Public Health, a Kenneth A. Forde Lifetime Achievement Award from Columbia University, a Victoria J. Mastrobuono Award for Women’s Health, and the National Organization for Women’s Champion of Public Health Award. Her recent publications include articles in The Lancet and in the New England Journal of Medicine addressing structural racism and health inequities in the United States.

headshot of Bishop Godbee with a skyscraper behind him
Bishop Ronald Godbee

5:30 PM to 6:30 PM (Dinner Buffet)

Panel Discussion

There will be a panel discussion on health equity — moderated by Deborah Holt Noel, Host of North Carolina Weekend and Executive Producer of Black Issues Forum on PBS NC —  that brings together community leaders.

The panelists include: *Rep. Vernetta Alston (NC Dist. 29); Sen. Natalie Murdock (NC District 20); Director of the NIEHS Office of Human Research and Community Engagement Joan Packenham, PhD; President & CEO of El Centro Hispano, Inc. Pilar Rocha-Goldberg; and Leader of The River Church Bishop Ronald Godbee.

*Update 2/9/24: Rep. Alston had to cancel at the last minute and could not attend

Award Ceremony

In accordance with the wishes of Ms. Black's family, the event will also include an award ceremony recognizing individuals in the YOUTH, POLICY, and COMMUNITY HEALTH categories who exemplify Ms. Black's spirit of community service and impact. 

The ceremony will be emceed by Deputy Director of DCI Steven Patierno, PhD. Patierno, who joined Duke and DCI in 2012, is the Charles D. Watts Distinguished Professor of Medicine and a professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology and of Family Medicine and Community Health. His translational research interests are focused on the genomics molecular biology of cancer disparities, cancer biology, molecular pharmacology and targeted experimental therapeutics to control prostate, breast and lung tumor aggressiveness. He is also actively engaged in cancer health disparities and healthcare delivery research focused on patient navigation, survivorship, community-based interventions, mHealth, implementation sciences, cancer care economics, and policy.


For any questions, please email


From the Archives

The below biography was originally published by the Duke University Medical Center Archives for the Women in Duke Health Exhibit, which offers a unique historical perspective from women in multiple fields at Duke, many of whom were pioneers or “firsts” in some way in their disciplines.

MaryAnn E. Black was born in Manhattan, NY, and grew up in Florence, SC. She received her undergraduate degree in English from Benedict College and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ms. Black worked in the Durham County School System and the Duke Child Guidance Center, and in 1982, she went into private practice as a Psychotherapist. In 1994 she was voted Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers. Beginning in 1990, she served as a Durham County Commissioner and was Chair of the Commissioners from 1996 to 2002.

In 2002, Ms. Black became Associate Vice President for Community Relations for the Duke University Health System. In this role, she helped to develop and implement strategies and programs to enhance the health system's relationships with local communities and groups supporting the health and human service needs of the people of Durham, NC. By establishing partnerships with the city, county, and other agencies and organizations, citizens were empowered to seek improvement for their physical and emotional health regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

Ms. Black was an active leader and participant in numerous Durham community agencies, schools, and healthcare programs. She either served on or chaired the boards of many organizations including:

  • Durham and Triangle United Ways
  • Durham County Board of Social Services
  • Durham Arts Council
  • Durham Regional Hospital Corporation
  • Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce
  • North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund
  • North Carolina Board of State Teachers and Local Government Retirement System
  • Durham Council on Alcoholism
  • Durham Center for Behavioral Health
  • Durham Nursery School Association Board
  • Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)
  • United Way Allocation Committee

In 2004, she received the Josephine Dobbs Clement Award for Exemplary Community Leadership for helping to improve public education in Durham.

Ms. Black passed away on March 25, 2020, at the age of 76. Strengthening the delivery of healthcare to underserved populations was an emphasis throughout her career and she will always be remembered for her commitment to serving others.


An oral history interview was conducted with MaryAnn Black on January 22, 2004, by Jessica Roseberry. It is available upon request. Contact the Medical Center Archives at for additional information.

Inaugural MaryAnn Black Distinguished Health Equity Symposium

The inaugural MAB event — held in Feb. 2023 before a crowd of nearly 300 people in Trent Semans Great Hall — featured then-Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke Eugene Washington, MD, MPH, MSc; COEE Assistant Director Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD; Founding Director, Duke CTSI (Clinical Translational Scientific Institute) Center for Equity in Research Nadine Barrett, PhD; Program Manager for Community Engagement in the Office of Community Health at Duke Health Kimberly E. Monroe, MPA, and keynote guest speaker Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS (Associate Director, Yale Cancer Center, and Associate Dean for Health Equity Research, Yale School of Medicine). Several of them shared their memories of Ms. Black and how she continues to inspire them today.

Nadine Barrett, Tomi Akinyemiju, Marcella Nunez-Smith, and two other people pose together.
Nadine Barrett, PhD, Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD, and Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MPH attend and speak at the Inaugural MaryAnn Black Distinguished Health Equity Lecture.

COEE Hosts Inaugural MaryAnn Black Distinguished Health Equity Lecture (2023)