One in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. Although White children are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, children of color are less likely to survive once diagnosed.
That’s where organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for Minnesota come in. Approximately 35-40 percent of its patients are African American, said Monique Linder, who was recently appointed to the hospital’s Twin Cities Advisory Council (TCAC).
The hospital’s mission is to advance cures and prevent pediatric diseases such as sickle cell anemia. Over the past half-century, it has attended to children across America and around the globe with its innovative treatments, helping push the childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to better than 80 percent.
Even more beneficial, St. Jude does not bill families for its services, including treatment, travel, housing or food.
“We are determined to build healthy, safe and strong communities,” Linder, who is also founder of OMG Digital Media Solutions, told the MSR.
Members of the advisory council are pulled together to connect “businesses and private supporters in a shared vision that supports local children and families either receiving care at the hospital or benefiting from its research discoveries,” said said Amanda Cahow, regional executive director for ALSAC/St. Jude, in a recent statement.
The work is done in conjunction with American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC) which serves as the fiscal arm, collaborating with business leaders, companies and private supporters to generate nonprofit financial resources supporting St. Jude’s daily operations. All together, ASLAC is responsible for 75 percent of the hospital’s operational expenses.
St. Jude, she said, raised more than $700M in 2018. Despite the staggering figure, Linder’s only thoughts are, “How can this organization raise more money to help more people?
“My job is to bring partnerships together to build safe, healthy, strong and prosperous communities for all,” she said. “A lot of my work in media communications and strategy is in marginalized communities — populations living in extreme poverty.”
Her clients include General Motors Company, Minnesota Trust Black Women & Girls, and Southern Youth Leadership Institute. Before launching her own company, Linder worked at iHeartMedia and CBS Radio Las Vegas. Such an enterprise indeed substantiates her assertion that partnering with the likes of St. Jude stands to benefit those most in need of crucial services.
Her new role is a natural extension of Linder’s community-centric work, which extends beyond her company’s award-winning media campaigns.
Her recent production credits include the Minnesota release of The Rape of Recy Taylor documentary and The Spirit of Rosa Parks Day in Montgomery, Alabama featuring “YesWeCode” Hackathon, as well as publishing Disrupting Poverty — a research study addressing the needs for strategic development to invest in areas of extreme concentrated poverty.
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” said Linder. “St. Jude’s mission aligned with my core beliefs of bringing culture and community together. I saw St. Jude providing parents with resources to save the life of their child without any cost to them, and innovating the healthcare industry through critical research that cured diseases.
“I’ve been following them for many years,” she continued, “and the story, of course, that touched me was with Danny Thomas.”
Thomas founded St. Jude in 1962 after overcoming his struggles to launch his career with a child on the way. The late entertainer prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of hopeless causes, for a way to cope with overwhelming hospital bills. Once lucrative work materialized, he called on friends to set about the initiative that would eventually establish the hospital.
“It’s radical to see Thomas’ legacy carried on in such a way that benefits humanity at large and is sustainable in a way that you don’t see in companies today,” she said. “We need to replace oppressive systems with healthy and sustainable business missions like St. Jude. They want to be part of the solution.”
It is not lost on Linder, either, that St. Jude was the nation’s first desegregated children’s hospital. Before patient housing was constructed, Thomas leveraged his celebrity and influence to defy Jim Crow, seeing to it that area hotels accommodated families of all races and religion while receiving treatment at the hospital.
“My research included traveling to Memphis to tour a St. Jude campus. As I walked past a wall with pictures of the board of directors, I saw many people of color and women on the wall. Walking through the hospital, I saw families of all ethnicities speaking many different languages — and lots of Black people,” said Linder.
“This blew me away. They really do reach out to understand what’s going on, the issues in the community, [and to ask] what does health equity mean for the work they’re doing in Minnesota.”