David Tom Cooke, the new chief of general thoracic surgery at UC Davis Health, was named by Cancer Health magazine as one of the top 25 individuals breaking down racial barriers to better cancer care.

David Tom Cooke

This year, the magazine dedicated its second annual edition of Change Makers to Black lives. The Cancer Health 25: Black Lives Matter list recognizes 25 individuals who, along with many others, are fighting to break down barriers to the best cancer care for all Americans.

In a feature article on the award recipients, Cancer Health noted that Cooke “….is well aware of the inequities that plague medicine. Case in point: He was recently mistaken for an orderly by one of his patients. But such experiences have helped inform his career path.” In 2013, Cooke, a national expert on lung and esophageal disease, co-founded the popular bimonthly #LCSM (lung cancer social media) chat on Twitter and in 2019 was named chair of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ Workforce on Diversity and Inclusion. His scholarly work includes research into disparities in lung cancer care between racial groups.

The Cancer Health article points out that according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), “Racial and ethnic minorities face poorer outcomes, are less frequently enrolled in clinical trials, and are less likely to be offered palliative care, genetic testing and other critical care. Specifically, African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest length of survival of any racial/ethnic group for most cancers.”

Cooke said, “I’m honored and humbled to receive the Cancer Health 25: Black Lives Matter award, named alongside such leaders as Jamie Foxx, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and ASCO president Dr. Lori J. Pierce. With the ongoing and critical support of UC Davis Health, I intend to continue my commitment to address the needs of the underserved as we challenge the key drivers of health inequities.”

Cancer Health recognizes that many groups experience cancer health disparities, including Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and people who are LGBTQ, older, disabled, poor, rural and more.