Karmanos Health Equity Book Club

Karmanos Cancer Institute is committed to delivering outstanding and equitable medical care to every patient we serve, as well as their caregivers and family members. This commitment requires us to provide support and empowerment within and beyond the scope of medicine. The purpose of the Health Equity Book Club is to enhance awareness of systematic racism, inequality and misinformation within the medical community. This is achieved through research and reading followed by honest and transparent conversations about difficult topics. Join us as we explore ways in which we can address and respond to issues of disparities in health care delivery to enhance outcomes and better serve all patients. 

Health care professionals, including trainees and students, as well as community members are invited to attend.

Book Focus: “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson

Watch: Karmanos Health Equity Book Club Meeting, March 25


  • M. Roy Wilson, M.D.
    President of Wayne State University
    M. Roy Wilson became president of Wayne State University in August 2013. Previous leadership positions include deputy director for strategic scientific planning and program coordination at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health, dean of the School of Medicine at Creighton University, president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and chancellor of University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Center. As an ophthalmologist and epidemiologist, his research focused on glaucoma and blindness in populations from the Caribbean to West Africa. In 2003, President Wilson was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (Institute of Medicine), one of the highest honors in the field of medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from Allegheny College, an M.S. in epidemiology from UCLA, and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.
  • Michael Simon, M.D., MPH

    Michael Simon, M.D., MPH
    Moderator, Co-Leader, Breast Cancer Multidisciplinary Team; Medical Director, Cancer Genetic Counseling Service at Karmanos Cancer Institute; Professor of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine
    Dr. Simon has studied racial and ethnic differences in hereditary cancer risk and genetic test results using 19 years of data from Karmanos' clinical genetics database. He has also been actively involved as an investigator in several large clinical and population-based studies encompassing cohort, case-control and randomized controlled trials. He served as a co-leader of the Population Studies & Disparities Research Program at Karmanos and as co-investigator of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) in Detroit since study inception. He has been the principal investigator for the Detroit site since 2008 and chair of the WHI's Cancer Special Interest Group since 2017. He has also served as co-investigator on the Cancer and Reproductive Experience (CARE) case-control study. He is currently co-investigator on the National Institute of Health-funded Infrastructure grant, "Detroit Research on Cancer Survivorship (ROCS)."
  • Louis A. Penner, Ph.D.
    Professor Emeritus of Oncology, Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University
    Louis A. Penner received his Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology from Michigan State University. He is Professor Emeritus of Oncology at Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. For the last 17 years, his work has focused on understanding and improving interactions between physicians and patients with cancer, with a particular emphasis on racial disparities in the quality of healthcare cancer patients receive. Much of this work has focused on how the race-related attitudes of both physicians and their patients can affect what transpires during medical interactions and the outcomes of these interactions. This work has been supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health. Dr. Penner is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychological Association, the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. He is a past president of the last organization. He has published over 135 scholarly articles and chapters and is currently co-authoring a book on racism and health for Cambridge University Press.
  • Mindy Kim
    Third Year Medical Student, Wayne State School of Medicine
    Mindy M. Kim is a third-year medical student at Wayne State University. She currently serves as a student representative for the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) Safety & Quality Improvement Subcommittee and was previously the president of the Hematology-Oncology Peer Education (HOPE) group at Wayne State. She is interested in leveraging big data technology to reduce health inequities that currently preclude access to healthcare. Under the mentorship of Dr. Michael S. Simon, she is currently leading a project investigating the health disparities experienced by women with breast cancer who have Medicaid vs. privately insured using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program.
  • Anitta Orr
    Connor Creek Cancer Action Council Member
    Anitta Y. Orr is a retired teacher of the speech and language impaired, formerly employed by the Detroit Public Schools. She was an active member of her professional organization serving as president of the Michigan Speech, Language and Hearing Association. As an active community volunteer, she has served on numerous boards such as the YWCA of Metropolitan Detroit, The United Way, Federation of Youth Services, St. Leo's Soup Kitchen, Interim House and is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Detroit Alumnae Chapter. She currently serves on the Conner Creek Cancer Action Council and is an active and engaged member of project ARISAfrican American Resilience in Surviving Cancer.
  • Denise Henderson, M.Ed., BSN, RN, OCN
    Oncology Nurse and Patient and Community Educator, Karmanos Cancer Institute
    Denise Henderson is an oncology nurse with over 40 years of experience. She started her career as a staff nurse on a medical surgical unit which turned into the first hospital unit that treated only cancer patients at Harper Hospital. Over the years, she has been a manager, supervisor and Nursing Education Specialist with the Detroit Medical Center and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Additionally, she authored Karmanos Cancer Center's first and second Community Health Needs Assessments.
About the Book

From Penguin Random House:

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

More information

If you have any questions, please contact Danny Inman at inmand@karmanos.org.

Future Health Equity Book Club Meeting Dates:
  • June 24, 2021
  • September 30, 2021
  • December 16 2021
  • March 31, 2022

Mission Statement

The Karmanos Cancer Institute Health Equity Book Club's mission is to build awareness across the Karmanos Community and amongst health care professionals of issues related to and stemming from systematic racism in the health care system and society in the United States. By revealing the contributing factors and results of racism, we seek to highlight an important goal for us as a cancer institute: to expose and better understand the impact of racism on our practice of medicine. We believe that open dialogue within our community of colleagues, patients and families will help to facilitate Karmanos Cancer Institute's goal of equal access and provision of culturally competent, quality care to all patients and their families regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Watch: Karmanos Health Equity Book Club Meeting, Oct. 22

The Latest From Karmanos Cancer Institute


Karmanos Cancer Institute presents 2021 Heroes of Cancer Awards

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is pleased to announce the winners of its 2021 Heroes of Cancer Awards. This year's event celebrates Kar...

Read More

Karmanos Cancer Institute partners with The Toledo Clinic to establish a new cancer center in Northwest Ohio

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is pleased to announce that it has entered into a partnership with The Toledo Clinic to establish a new ...

Read More

Father with colorectal cancer gives credit to daughter for saving his life

After serving for 20 years in the United States Navy as a submarine sailor, John Lacks retired and transitioned to life with his family, including...

Read More