Remembering Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill

The Resilient Sisterhood Project is delighted about the recognition of the legacy of the much beloved Gwen Ifill by the US Postal Service. On January 30th, 2020 USPS unveiled the 43rd postage stamp in the Black Heritage Series, featuring Ifill. Gwen Ifill was born on September 29, 1955, in New York City. Growing up, her parents insisted that the whole family should gather in front of the television every night to watch the national news. This is where her interest in journalism began. In 1973, she attended Simmons College and, 4 years later, she graduated with her degree in Communications. After graduating, she dedicated the next 40 years of her life to journalism. Ifill worked for The Washington Post, The New York Times and the National Broadcasting Company. She became the first woman and African American to moderate a major television news show. Ifill’s work garnered many awards, including the George Foster Peabody Award and the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award. Gwen Ifill died in 2016 of uterine cancer.

Uterine cancer is among the most common gynecological cancers in the United States and generally has one of the highest survival rates among cancers of the female reproductive system. According to the CDC, uterine cancer overall is slightly more common in white women; however, Black women are more likely to die from it. The terms “uterine cancer” and “endometrial cancer” are often used interchangeably, but endometrial cancer is actually a subset of uterine cancer, arising from the lining of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is estrogen-related and often easier to treat than other types of uterine cancer. Uterine sarcoma is another form of uterine cancer, which is characterized by a more aggressive and fast-paced development. This type of tumor arises from the muscle layer of the uterus rather than the endometrial lining.

Gwen Ifill suffered from an aggressive form of endometrial cancer. Studies have shown that these types of endometrial cancers are 1.9 to 2.5 times more prevalent among Black women. Although the incidence of endometrial cancer among all women is steadily increasing, the incidence among Black women is increasing at a faster rate. Along with an increase in the prevalence of this disease, Black women are also twice as likely to die from endometrial cancer than other racial groups. This is attributed to differences in the molecular and genetic basis of the disease, with mutations that result in the more aggressive form of this type of cancer occurring more often in women of African descent. Additionally, the prognosis of endometrial cancer can be greatly improved by early diagnosis and treatment, while Black women can face significant barriers to having a timely diagnosis and access to treatment. For more information regarding uterine and endometrial cancer, please refer to our blog post: https://www.rsphealth.org/blog/2019/2/20/uterine-cancer-lets-broaden-our-knowledge.

In August of 2017, RSP lifted and honored the legacy of the much-acclaimed Gwen Ifill. This special gathering, held at Martha’s Vineyard, had the purpose of addressing diseases of the reproductive system in women of African descent, such as endometrial cancer, which continues to disproportionately affect women of color. This event also premiered Simmons College’s “Tribute to Gwen Ifill”, which you can watch by clicking the link below:

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