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Best of the Week 2021-2022: Teaching to the Future


Karim Elsharkawy '22, who has been participating in the Community Engaged Cancer Research Practices (CECRP) program throughout the school year, virtually participated in the annual Cancer Disparities Symposium. CECRP is a training program for high school students who have previously participated in the Summer Enrichment Opportunity/Youth Engaged in Science program at Case Western Reserve University. In addition to exposure to the discipline of community engaged research, Karim has been able to interact with individuals who live and work in the realms of tobacco-related, colorectal and prostate cancer and network with Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinators from the Taussig Cancer Center and the Seidman Cancer Center. "This program has opened many doors for me, but the most important one is the ability to raise awareness of social issues, especially those that affect health and the healthcare system," says Karim. "I've conducted lab-based research and personally got to research diabetes in rats, which was a very new but exciting experience. I've spent a lot of time learning about the communities that are burdened by social injustices and conducting research that sheds light on these is something I'm very grateful for. I was able to make a difference, no matter how small that difference may seem, in the lives of those affected by inequality. However, my individual research is a needle in a haystack compared to the amount of work that still needs to be done to get rid of social health disparities." This week, Karim participated in keynote speaker presentations as well as a reading group discussion on "Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think and Do" as part of "The Intersection of Racism, Poverty and Biology in Cancer Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment" focus of this year's symposium. "Keynote speaker Dr. Robert Winn stressed that the 'person always comes first,' after highlighting the systems of oppression that kept African American communities from having access to healthcare as well as a sustainable quality of life. These are issues that plague our own Cleveland community today," says Karim. "I hope to be a physician one day and being a physician requires more than just knowledge of the sciences. Understanding the social, political, and economic aspects that affect the intersectionality of your patients is essential to being a doctor who should prioritize caring for the whole person. When I conduct professional research and bring something new to the table as a doctor, I will know that I have a responsibility to make sure that the product of my research is distributed equitably in battling these disparities."

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