Discovery Center

Together We Can Stop Cervical Cancer

A Conversation with Linda Eckert and Tanjila Taskin

Thursday, April 25, 2024 | 5 - 7 pm PDT
A young girl after receiving the HPV vaccine in a clinic in Nigeria.
A young girl after receiving the HPV vaccine during the first phase of a country-wide HPV Vaccination Campaign targeting school-age girls between 9 and 14 years old in Lagos State, Nigeria. ©Gates Archive/Nyancho NwaNri

Together We Can Stop Cervical Cancer: A Conversation with Linda Eckert and Tanjila Taskin
Free to attend | All ages welcome | ASL services provided
In-Person at the Discovery Center | Directions    
Online via zoom. A zoom link for the livestreamed event to be sent to registered participants.  

Delve into the urgent and critical issue of cervical cancer prevention with Dr. Linda Eckert and Tanjila Taskin, Program Officer, Immunization at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Join Dr. Linda Eckert, renowned author and advocate for women’s health, in conversation with Tanjila Taskin as they discuss Dr. Eckert’s groundbreaking book, Enough: Because We Can Stop Cervical Cancer. Dr. Eckert weaves together her expertise as a physician and advocate with the voices of courageous cervical cancer survivors who are using their experiences to call for change. Enough is a heart-breaking, yet hopeful, book that takes you through the world of cervical cancer with evidence-based information, personal stories and actionable outcomes.  

Preventing cervical cancer deaths in world’s most resource-poor settings is an important part of the global health strategy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation including HPV vaccine introductions.  This event is open to all individuals passionate about women’s health, including healthcare professionals, researchers, activists, and community members. Together, let’s raise awareness, challenge the status quo, and work towards a world where cervical cancer is no longer a threat. 

According to Dr. Eckert’s website, cervical cancer kills almost 350,000 women each year. What’s more horrifying is that millions have died of this disease that’s nearly 100% preventable. It’s no secret that healthcare is full of inequities, with a severe lack of accessible screening and treatment programs. But women’s health care is also impeded by cultural, gender, and political barriers, issues that have combined to create devastating consequences.  

EVENT SCHEDULE: 

5:00 p.m.  Doors Open, Visit partner tables  

5:30 p.m. Discussion starts, Virtual event goes live

6:15 p.m. Q & A

6:30 p.m. Networking and connect with our partners for ways to get involved.  

Thank you to our event partners Cervivor, PATH, School Nurse Organization of Washington, TogetHER for Health, University of Washington I-TECH, WE CARE, and Within Reach.

About our speakers 

Dr. Linda O. Eckert is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology with an Infectious Disease Fellowship at the University of Washington and an internationally recognized expert in immunizations and cervical cancer prevention. For over thirty years, Dr. Eckert has worked at Seattle’s Harborview Hospital, treating people from all around the world. Frequently in the spotlight for her expertise in HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer screenings, Dr. Eckert is passionate in her drive to eliminate this deadly disease. 

Dr. Tanjila Taskin is a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and leads the HPV Learning Agenda and Country Engagement. With over twelve years of experience as an epidemiologist, Tanjila has spearheaded numerous observational and clinical trials in both the US and in LMIC. Driven by her dedication to cancer prevention, Tanjila has chosen a career path in public health. Her unwavering commitment to saving lives from cancer drives her mission to promote and ensure HPV vaccine equity, particularly in LMICs.

Q&A with Dr. Eckert

Discovery Center: How can we prevent cervical cancer?
Linda Eckert:
It’s an interesting cancer because it is one of the most preventable cancers. Almost all of it is caused by humanpapilloma virus (HPV) infections. Humanpapilloma virus is extremely common. There are about 200 types, but 12 have the ability to cause changes on the surface of the cervix that can lead to pre-cancer. The superpower we have to prevent cervical cancer is the HPV vaccine because it is incredibly effective at preventing the most common cancer-causing HPV types from taking hold on the cervi x.

Another way to prevent cervical cancer is by screening. Currently, we have two methods for screening for cervical cancer. One way is to test for the types of HPV that can cause the precancer changes — that is called high risk HPV testing. The other method, which has been around for about 50 years, is the Pap smear test. Pap smears test for precancer changes on the cervix. And, importantly, once pre-cancer is found, we can treat it very successfully and prevent cancer.

Lastly, even if someone already has cancer, if we find it early, we can treat the cancer and prevent death.

DC: Tell us about the HPV global vaccine effort.
LE
: Countries choose whether they’re going to implement the vaccine. The implementation involves not just buying the vaccine, which is one big challenge, but also having to keep the vaccine safe, keep it cold, to deliver it, to track who gets it. We did have a massive global supply shortage from 2018 until recently, but now the supply has increased. It’s an expensive vaccine: In the U.S. it’s about $160. There is a global body called Gavi, [the Vaccine Alliance] that funds vaccines to the 52 poorest countries, and they have negotiated a price of $4.55. So many countries are now introducing the vaccine with the help of Gavi funding — this is really exciting! And so important! What that doesn’t account for is if you are a country not poor enough to get Gavi funding, but you are not rich enough to afford the vaccine — I call these the “caught in the middle” countries. So that’s the negative news.

The positive news is that since the WHO launched its global elimination effort, there is much more enthusiasm among global health partners and donors to try to make this vaccine available, and we are seeing real progress.

Read the rest of the Q&A on our website.

DC: When you wrote Enough, you included women’s personal stories. Why was that important?
LE: I felt like it was really important to make this a relatable cancer. This is something that happens to Google executives, to school teachers in California, to people that live in Zimbabwe and Namibia that may be radio stars. I felt the stories would help give that impression that this could happen to anybody.

I also feel that stories are really the way to shift policy. I have spent my life doing data and guidelines, and I feel like that’s super important. But if you want to think about how people really make decisions, I think it’s [through] stories.

DC: What do you hope people will take away from the conversation on April 25?
LE: I hope as we talk that the knowledge itself will be really useful to people, that they’ll feel like, Oh, I understand this better, and this isn’t such a medical thing that is over my head. The second is that it’ll help people be willing to drop a stone in the pond, and then the ripples move out. I don’t know where all these ripples are going to go, but I feel compelled to keep dropping stones and hoping that eventually the ripples move into a tsunami. And we need a tsunami: We need a change in political will and a change in mobilization to really eliminate a cancer that can be eliminated.

Reflections on the book

Beautifully written, Enough is a searing call to arms, for too many women are dying of cervical cancer when we have the tools to save their lives. The unnecessary human cost of cervical cancer is a scandal, and one that Dr. Eckert is determined to fix.

Nicholas Kristof, Columnist,  The New York Times
and co-author Half the Sky

Eckert presents an urgent and powerful call to action to save lives, based on her decades of practice and research around the world. Enough is an essential resource for anyone concerned with public health, women’s rights, and addressing racial and national inequities in healthcare.

Anjli Parrin, Director, Global Human Rights Clinic

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