Leaders in cancer prevention honored for COVID-19 resilience by the Prevent Cancer Foundation

June 3, 2021

Media Contact: Lisa Berry Edwards

Alexandria, Va. — On Wednesday, June 2, the Prevent Cancer Foundation® recognized national leaders in cancer prevention and early detection with the 2021 Cancer Prevention Laurels Awards. As a part of the annual Prevent Cancer Dialogue, the Laurels Awards, presented in partnership with the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, are given to outstanding leaders in health equity and community service and for national leadership.

Held virtually for the second year in a row, the Prevent Cancer Dialogue convenes cancer prevention and early detection stakeholders from across the U.S. and across all disciplines related to cancer screening and prevention. In place of an in-person ceremony, this year’s award winners were announced in a video presentation from Andrea Roane, an Emmy Award-winning newscaster and longtime Prevent Cancer Foundation board member.

“It is always our honor to celebrate cancer prevention and early detection changemakers at the Laurels Awards, but in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, this celebration feels extraordinarily special,” said Carolyn Aldigé, Founder and CEO of the Prevent Cancer Foundation. “This incredible group of honorees have dedicated decades to public health and cancer prevention, and their resilience and legacies have kept cancer prevention and early detection going during a time when preventive health care stalled in almost every area.”

Here are the 2021 Cancer Prevention Laurels Awards winners: 

Laurel Award for Health Equity – Dr. Tsu-Yin Wu

Tsu-Yin Wu, M.S.N., Ph.D., is the Director of the Healthy Asian Americans Project and Center for Health Disparities Innovation and Studies at Eastern Michigan University. Throughout her 20-year career, Dr. Wu has committed herself to providing evidence to support the urgent need for public health funding for underserved Asian communities. Her research, which has resulted in more than 20 publications, has revealed pervasive health disparities for Asians and Asian Americans. Globally, Dr. Wu has implemented strategies, such as training breast health ambassadors, that have resulted in thousands of women receiving breast cancer screening and follow-up diagnostics and treatment.

During the past year, Dr. Wu has pivoted her work to train bilingual navigators to bring culturally sensitive, translated early detection education materials to Asian refugee populations at COVID-19 events, including COVID testing sites, flu clinics and food distribution events.

Laurel Award for Dedication to Community Service – Ify Anne Nwabukwu

Ms. Nwabukwu is the President and Founder of African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association, based in Washington, D.C. For the past 16 years, she has been dedicated to identifying and meeting community needs for cancer prevention and screening. Revered by her colleagues, Ms. Nwabukwu’s public health tools have been distributed in 11 African languages to more than 40,000 African immigrants and African Americans, both nationally and internationally. Under her leadership, her team has designed and implemented more than 30 breast cancer programs on capacity building, community education, screening services and diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer among African immigrant communities.

When COVID-19 hit the Washington D.C. area, Ms. Nwabukwu re-strategized, raising community funds to provide personal protective equipment to more than 3,000 Black breast cancer survivors and their families and to connect hundreds of cancer survivors with COVID-19 testing.

Laurel Award for National Leadership – Dr. David Ahlquist (posthumous award)

David Ahlquist, M.D., was a gastroenterologist and an internationally recognized leader in early detection of colorectal cancer. He led the scientific team that created an FDA-approved, multi-target stool DNA screening test. To date, this test has been used to screen for colorectal cancer by 5 million people, preventing morbidity or mortality for many of them. Throughout his long career, Dr. Ahlquist maintained more than 25 years of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health, was published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters, was issued more than 80 patents and mentored more than 40 trainees. Dr. Ahlquist passed away on November 1, 2020, due to complications from ALS. His wife, Susan Ahlquist, and colleague, Dr. Paul Limburg, accepted the award.

While cancer screening rates dropped this past year due to COVID-19, the impact of Dr. Ahlquist’s contributions to provide screening options for patients, including an at-home option for colorectal cancer screening, could be felt more than ever. At a time when preventive care stalled, his legacy allowed early detection of colorectal cancer to remain a possibility for screening-eligible people.

About the Prevent Cancer Foundation®

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is celebrating 35 years as the only U.S. nonprofit organization focused solely on saving lives across all populations through cancer prevention and early detection.  Through research, education, outreach and advocacy, we have helped countless people avoid a cancer diagnosis or detect their cancer early enough to be successfully treated.  

The Foundation is rising to meet the challenge of reducing cancer deaths by 40% by 2035. To achieve this, we are committed to investing $20 million for innovative technologies to detect cancer early and advance multi-cancer screening, $10 million to expand cancer screening and vaccination access to medically underserved communities, and $10 million to educate the public about screening and vaccination options.

For more information, please visit www.preventcancer.org.