City of Hope held the third annual Closing the Care Gap event earlier this week with its Music, Film and Entertainment Industry (MFEI) fundraising group. Hosted by music industry icons, Lyor Cohen, global head of Music at YouTube and Google, and Sylvia Rhone, chair and CEO of Epic Records, the event brought together industry professionals and influencers to inspire, educate and support opportunities to achieve access to the best treatment and care available for all people facing cancer.

"Too many people needlessly suffer due to lack of access to the latest medical innovations and systemic barriers that prevent them from getting the best cancer care," said John Carpten, Ph.D., director of City of Hope's National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, director of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, chief scientific officer and the Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director's Distinguished Chair. "At City of Hope, we are working to carry out solutions that increase the likelihood that every person living with cancer — regardless of race or region — can get the best care."

Only 20% of cancer patients in the U.S. are treated at National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers like City of Hope. In addition, economically disadvantaged and racially diverse communities face additional barriers that limit their ability to find and sustain specialized, lifesaving care.

The event, hosted at the Los Angeles home of real estate agent and TV personality Josh Flagg, fostered key interactions among health care experts, entertainment industry professionals, key leaders in the music community and past Spirit of Life honorees, including Kevin Liles, CEO at 300 Entertainment, Jody Gerson, CEO at Universal Music Publishing Group, past Spirit of Life honoree Rob Light, head of music at CAA, Debra Lee, former CEO at BET, Danielle Price Sanders, executive vice president at Republic Records, Willie "Prophet" Stiggers, CEO of 50/50 Music Group Management, and American songwriter Justin Tranter, among others.

The program was dedicated to addressing challenges patients face in obtaining access to quality health care, preventive mobile screening, early disease detection, and personalized or precision medicine.

With an introduction from Evan Lamberg, president at Universal Music Publishing Group and MFEI board president, Jonathan Azu, founder and CEO of Culture Collective and MFEI board member, set the tone for the evening, shedding light on his personal battle against cancer. After a baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, Azu was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was 44 years old. Having grown up in a family of medical professionals, Azu recognizes he had resources and access to health care that many do not, so he wants to help people who are not as fortunate.

"I am one of the blessed ones − I remember that every day," Azu said. "I am now dedicated more than ever to assisting the Division of Health Equities at City of Hope in more early screening education and better access to health care for people who look like me."

Cohen took the stage next. Over the course of his 40-year career in hip-hop, Cohen, who was named this year's City of Hope Spirit of Life honoree, has become familiar with the disadvantages that underrepresented populations face.

"The more you give, the more you receive. And today we are all in the business of giving – of our time, our influence, our connections and experiences," Cohen said. "It's our responsibility to do the work to close the care gap. We need to provide access to early detection with routine screenings and better treatment, and of course, resources and education that help increase health equity." 

City of Hope is poised to treat more cancer patients across the nation and support the needs of a more diverse patient population through partnerships, policy efforts, continued clinical expansion across the country and innovative care delivery options.

Gail Mitchell, executive director of R&B/Hip-Hop at Billboard magazine, spoke with Carpten and Azu in a fireside chat-style interview.

"The music industry has the potential to make a monumental impact on the health of the Black community," Mitchell said.

Added Rhone, "I'm grateful to have the privilege to help solve these challenges with our industry and give everyone fighting cancer the hope they deserve."

Kristin Bertell, chief philanthropy officer at City of Hope, concluded the program. "You are part of the movement," said Bertell of the guests. "Your philanthropic partnership supports us in removing obstacles to care for everyone. We cannot cure cancer if we don't cure it for all."

Closing the Care Gap continues a year-long fundraising initiative for City of Hope that will conclude with MFEI's Spirit of Life Gala, which will honor Cohen for his noble contributions to the music industry community and profession. The gala will celebrate 50 years of philanthropic partnership with MFEI on Oct. 18, 2023, at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles.

Flagg, who housed the event, and his family are longtime philanthropic supporters of City of Hope. The event is supported by the Closing the Care Gap Event Committee, including Azu, event chair, Kathy Baker, Tuma Basa, Vivien Lewit, Danielle Price Sanders, Willie "Prophet" Stiggers and Michelle Williams.

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