On Wednesday, December 15, 2021, a panel of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) experts joined the Abyssinian Baptist Church in an online discussion that provided guidance and tips on staying mentally and physically healthy amid uncertainty, especially during this year’s holiday season.
Moderated by MSK infectious disease specialist Monika Shah, the panel featured medical oncologist Diane Reidy-Lagunes; psychiatrist Monique James; staff chaplain and chairman of the African American Day Parade, Inc., Yusuf Hasan; and clinical social worker Linda Mathew, and featured opening remarks from Linda Thompson, leader of the Abyssinian Baptist Church’s Health Ministry.
The speakers shared information about how to manage your — and your family’s — physical health this season, including: the importance of all people ages 5 and up getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza, wearing masks, and getting frequent COVID-19 testing (especially before holiday gatherings). In addition to COVID-19 precautions, they emphasized that it’s just as important to prioritize your overall well-being by keeping up with routine doctor’s appointments and cancer screenings, exercising, and making smart food choices.
Turning to mental health, the panel addressed why the holidays can be challenging and provided tips for how to set healthy boundaries this time of year — while also respecting the boundaries of others. They also talked about coping mechanisms to support yourself and your family, including children and friends who may be dealing with anxiety, depression, or the loss of a loved one. This is an issue for much of the country, as nearly 60% of Americans are experiencing some level of emotional distress, said Dr. Reidy-Lagunes, on a recent episode of the podcast series Cancer Straight Talk from MSK.
Closing out the panel, Mr. Hasan remarked on the powerful impact of the collaboration of three historic New York City institutions: the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the African American Day Parade, and MSK. He noted that these organizations are walking the walk and trying to care for their community by prioritizing the physical and mental health of residents — highlighting MSK’s partnership with the Abyssinian Baptist Church on COVID-19 vaccines, sponsorship of the African American Day Parade, and work in Harlem at the Ralph Lauren Center. “They are connecting together to keep the spirits of our community alive. And out of this, I am quite sure there will be a lot of positives,” Mr. Hasan says.
This was the second educational event put on by MSK in partnership with the Abyssinian Baptist Church. The first, a webinar in November 2021, covered questions about COVID-19 vaccination and addressed common myths and misconceptions about the vaccine.