RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Richmond this afternoon in her first solo official visit outside of Washington, D.C. since Inauguration Day.
Dr. Biden toured Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center downtown.
“Dr. Biden’s visit […] really highlights the importance of our groundbreaking research at this institution,” Michael Rao, president of VCU said. “Cancer affects us all, but it disproportionately impacts minorities.”
Dr. Biden went to VCU to meet with researchers, scientists and community leaders. Throughout her visit she spoke with them about their collective work to improve access to cancer treatment and care, expanding minority participation in cancer research and address health disparities in cancer, especially in the Black population, through community engagement.
The first lady took a two stop tour of the of VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Goodwin Research Laboratory. She was briefed on research on the mechanisms by which normal cells become cancerous. Biden also met with Dr. Said Sebti, who has identified some of those mechanisms as well as several drugs that can disrupt them.
“We are pursuing comprehensive cancer center status,” said Health Services Senior VP Dr. Art Kellermann said. “Once we’re beyond COVID, cancer is still going to be there.”
After the tour, Dr. Biden went to the McGlothlin Medical Education Center Auditorium to give some brief remarks. She also received updates on current initiatives from cancer researchers at VCU Massey Cancer Center and the co-founders of ‘Facts and Faith Fridays’ during a panel.
Biden explained that many Americans have been left behind when it comes to receiving medical care. “The best science in the world can only go so far without trust and communication and collaboration with those who need it most,” she said.
She gave personal accounts of watching friends battle cancer. “In one year, I watched four of my friends face down that same deadly disease,” Biden said. “Three of them survived.”
The First Lady stated that “cancer touches everyone” and just about everyone personally knows someone impacted by cancer and that needs to change.
While at VCU she witnessed efforts to change that in their labs. “I saw DNA being separated from bacteria — just amazing things,” Biden said. “I wish you all could’ve been there.”
Part of VCU’s efforts include ensuring their research and care reaches minority communities. Dr. Khalid Martin said, over the years, VCU has been able to maintain clinical trials in which 30% of participants are minorities.
“We don’t want to be a place that only facilitates great science, but it doesn’t reach the community,” Dr. Vanessa B. Sheppard said. “Just last month, we trained our first cohort of breast cancer survivors who will be champions in the community.”
During the event the topic of COVID-19 in minorities communities was also discussed with the people involved with Facts & Faith Fridays.
“There’s so much misinformation, inaccurate information swirling in the community about COVID,” Rudene Mercer Haynes, J.D., said. Another member of the community initiative, Rev. F. Todd Gray said their work has been innovative and very beneficial for members of the African American community.
Biden says getting information to communities is all about trust. “Now, I think it’s important for them to trust the federal government again,” she said.
Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam both were present at the event as well.
The last time Dr. Biden came to Richmond was last September to promote Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. She visited the City of Richmond Registrar’s Office on Laburnum Avenue.
Following her talk on Wednesday, Biden visited Brewers, a local coffee shop.
You can watch the full talk below: