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The Life, Death, and Dream of a Research Diversity Crusader

“We want to have a nation in which the accidents and circumstances of our birth aren’t determining our fate,” he told a room of reporters a few days later. “And if we’re born with a particular disease or a particular genetic makeup that makes us more vulnerable to something; that that’s not our destiny, that’s not our fate—that we can remake it.”

They were the words Shakir Cannon had been waiting his whole life to hear. For 32 years he had been living with a genetic disorder, sickle cell disease, which predominantly affects African Americans. He managed it the same way people had been doing for decades: He got monthly blood transfusions and took medications for the crippling bouts of pain in his bones and joints. He didn’t have the money for a bone marrow transplant. But he dreamed that one day there’d be an affordable, universal cure—and he was a vocal advocate for research to make that a reality.



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