20 badass, hilarious, and surprising ways people have fought Nazis.
Illustration by Tom Eichacker.

For as long as there have been Nazis, people have been fighting Nazis.

Kicking Nazi ass is not only American as apple pie, it is the basis of our greatest foreign policy triumph, the subject of our most satisfying movies, and the reason the History Channel still exists.

From 1939 until 1945, the United States, British, and Soviet militaries tried to solve the Nazi problem by dropping bombs on them from various airplanes.


The OG Antifa. Photo by U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons.

Sending explosives plummeting from way high up directly onto Nazis down below worked pretty well for a while. Nearly 2 million tons of bombs were dropped on Germany and German-occupied territories during World War II, killing hundreds of thousands of Nazis.

Unfortunately, this method also wound up killing a lot of civilians, prisoners of war, resistance fighters, house cats, and random guys named Gerhard who happened to be standing near Nazis at the time. It also turns out to be super inappropriate for peacetime. Not to mention, it didn't totally work because here we are in 2017: There are still Nazis. And we're still arguing about how to fight them.

When tiki torch-wielding fascists come to town, are "many sides" to blame when fists start to fly? How free is free speech when one side is calling for the extermination of the other? Should violence be answered with more violence? Nazis aren't known to respond to reason, but vigilantism icks most of us out. And who gets to define who is and is not a Nazi anyway? Is there some kind of Google form?

If history teaches us anything, it's that Nazis don't go away unless someone fights back. And violence isn't the only way (although, reviewing the record, it turns out to be one of the main ways) to resist them.

Here are 20 alternate, yet no less effective, ways people have fought against, and mostly defeated, Nazis throughout history:

1. A town in Germany refused to let neo-Nazis win by turning their marches into involuntary walkathons.

Every year for decades, neo-Nazis marched through the German town of Wunsiedel. Every year, residents tried to ignore them or counter-march, neither of which worked. In 2014, however, the town's anti-fascist majority finally got to the Nazis by raising some serious money off their parade. For every kilometer the Nazis walked, business owners and donors in the town pledged cash to the EXIT Germany Initiative, an NGO that de-Nazifies Nazis.

Hundreds turned out to cheer the Nazis on as they subverted their own agenda step by step. The approach was so successful that it spread to other be-Nazi'd communities around the world. More importantly, it made about 200 Nazis feel really (and appropriately) dumb.

Of course, when it comes to confronting fascists, not everyone has the wit of a poet and the patience of a saint. Which is why...

2. An unknown activist straight-up punched prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer in the face.

Perhaps the most famous of all the methods of anti-Nazi combat was famously deployed by an anonymous Black Bloc protester against white nationalist icon Richard Spencer on the day of Donald Trump's inauguration. While Spencer denies being a Nazi, he has been known to throw off a suspiciously Nuremberg Rally-esque speech every now and again, complete with shouty paeans to ethnic solidarity and athletic audience heils.

The masked anarchist in question decided to punch him just to be safe.

It is important to note that, as repellant as modern-day Nazis (whether full-on or pseudo-) may be, this writer in no way endorses violence, which is Not The Answer and Never Funny. Indeed, no part of Richard Bertrand Spencer getting decked in the temple is remotely amusing. Not the fact that the punch lands just as Spencer is about to launch into a serious analysis of the symbolism of his cartoon frog lapel pin. Not one of the dozens of remixes showing the protester's fist connecting with Spencer's face at the exact moment the beat drops in a popular song. Not Spencer whining about being humiliated online forever.

Not one bit.

3. In 2015, a guy in South Carolina made KKK marchers look silly by playing a jaunty tuba song while they marched down the street.

When it comes to giving Nazism that down-home spin, no one beats the Ku Klux Klan, a group that takes fascism, smothers it in white gravy, and serves it with a side of cheesy grits and a red-white-and-blue garnish. Back when South Carolina was debating removing the Confederate flag from its state capitol grounds in 2015, a group of klansmen tried to dissuade them by spending the morning of July 18 marching menacingly down the streets of Columbia.

Menacingly, that is, until a man named Matt Buck decided to follow them with a tuba and make them look ridiculous.

"I didn't really know how to show my opposition," Buck told Charleston City Paper following his savage sousaphone-ing of the group. "So that was my way of doing it."

4. A Jewish partisan in the Polish backcountry inconvenienced a group of Nazis by burning down a bridge they were using during WWII.

For many of the brutalized, pissed-off civilians trapped behind German lines during World War II, nothing beat skulking around the woods making life difficult for as many Nazis as possible. One such skulker, Gertrude Boyarski, recalled in a 2013 interview with the Jewish Partisan Education Fund how she gleefully set a bridge — used heavily by the local Nazis — on fire as a holiday present to the Russian government.

Illustration by Tom Eichacker.

The Nazis shot at her for her trouble, (Nazis basically have two settings: off and shooting) but thankfully missed and proceeded to not have a bridge.

5. A group of Czech musicians drowned out neo-Nazi protesters with an impromptu concert.

At a rally in Brno, Czech Republic, in May 2017, 150 marching neo-Nazis were upstaged by nearly twice the number of counter-protesters holding a spontaneous open-air open mic at the same time.

Posted by BRNO Blokuje on Monday, May 1, 2017

Fun fact: An impromptu anti-Nazi music festival is the one situation where it's OK to root for a guy in a fedora playing acoustic guitar.

6. A band of concentration camp prisoners blew up one of Hitler's death factories.

On Oct. 7, 1944, a group of prisoners at Auschwitz revolted against the camp's guards, killing several by detonating a pile of gunpowder (which they'd been smuggling for months) in one of the camp's crematoria, destroying it.

The Nazis ultimately shot and hanged them all, as Nazis are wont to do, but eternal respect for a group of fighters willing to sacrifice their lives under the most inhuman conditions to inconvenience Nazis, even for a moment.

7. After WWII, Germany fought Nazis with bureaucracy, fining them for their political views.

Here in the land of the free, separated from the most dangerous Nazi stuff by two very large oceans, we mostly let Nazis say what they want. Being a Nazi — so long as you don't round up and kill anyone (hard for Nazis!) — is more or less protected by the First Amendment.  

In other countries, particularly those that have had a more up close and personal relationship with Nazis, things are a little different.

The Reichstag building in Berlin. Photo by Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images.

Take Germany, for instance. Nazis have been a bit of an issue in Germany in the past — so the country up and made saying Nazi things illegal. Penalties can include an arrest and a fine, which two Chinese tourists found out the hard way this summer, after deploying "heil Hitler" salutes in front of the historic Reichstag building in Germany.

It's not very free speech-y. It's also only enforced sometimes. To that end...

8. A gang of German counter-protesters formed a blockade, preventing neo-Nazi marchers from getting where they were trying to go.

In August 2017, a group of about 500 German neo-Nazis attempted to march to the former site of Spandau prison, where former mega-Nazi Rudolph Hess died by suicide 30 years earlier. They got about half a mile in before they were "forced to turn back" by counter-protesters blockading their route.

While it may seem surprising that a group of violence-extollin' Nazis let a few civilians stand between them and the ultimate triumph of the Aryan master race, it does make a certain sense. Historically speaking, other than perpetrating the mass murder of millions, giving up is what Nazis do best.

9. During the war, a secret cadre of German communists sabotaged Nazi warships.

Nazis on land are bad. Put Nazis on the high seas and you're asking for a swift torpedo to the national welfare. That's why, despite incredible risk and over the likely objections of everyone who wanted their heads to remain bullet-free, Bernhard Bästlein and Franz Jacob spent the early years of World War II organizing Hamburg shipyard workers to resist Nazi rule and slow down production.

Most members of the group were arrested and executed before they could accomplish much, but the principle they died for — never letting a Nazi get on a boat with guns — lives on.

10. A Swedish woman became an icon when she hit a group of skinheads with her handbag.

In 1985, a group of skinheads set out to terrorize the Swedish town of Vaxjo. They hoped to cow the locals into silence. Instead, a local woman, Danuta Danielsson, whose mother had survived Auschwitz decades earlier, ran up to one of the demonstrators and smacked him with her purse.

The photo of Danielsson's pocketbook strike became so legendary that, in 2014, a Swedish artist proposed building a monument to the swatting. The town, however, declined, fearing such a statue would glorify violence.  

Thwack. Photo by Hans Runesson/Wikimedia Commons.

Thus, the debate over who is worse, Nazis or the people who hit them with soft household objects continued to infinity.

11. A team of Israeli secret agents tackled Adolf Eichmann when he got off the bus from work and extradited him to face trial for war crimes.

The practical downside to committing a bunch of crimes against humanity means somebody might sneak up on you when you least expect it and make you pay for them. That's what happened to Eichmann one evening in May 1960. The infamous Nazi functionary had facilitated the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, resulting in the murder of up to 400,000 people. Since the war, he'd been living in Argentina under the name Ricardo Klement.

Or at least he was until Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, pulled up in front of his house, stuffed him in a car, tied his hands and feet, and snuck him onto a commercial flight back to Israel, where he was, unsurprisingly, found guilty of crimes against  humanity and eventually hanged.

The world is complicated, however, and most Nazis aren't as notorious as Eichmann. To try to push past that...

12. A relentless Nazi hunter tracked down a most-wanted Nazi war criminal in his retirement community.

Consider the case of Gerhard Sommer. The top man on the Wiesenthal Center's 2015 "Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals" list, the former SS officer allegedly helped murder over 500 men, women, and children in the Italian village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema as the Germans retreated through the area in August 1944. Despite overwhelming evidence placing Sommer at the scene, prosecutors in Germany recently declared the 93-year-old unfit for trial, citing advanced dementia.

Soon after, Nazi hunter Jurgen Kolb decided to track him down in his nursing home.

Thankfully, Kolb took a few reporters from Cracked — a magazine known for its sneakily ambitious journalism — along for the ride. He told them he believes that Sommer is faking his dementia. The group followed a string of clues, ultimately locating the aged accused war criminal in a senior citizens facility.

"All we can do now is update where he is living and that he's still alive," Jurgen told the reporters in an interview. Still, in the grand scheme of making Nazis' lives bad, ensuring one spends the rest of his life looking over his shoulder ain't a terrible consolation prize.

13. A ballet dancer brought to Auschwitz reportedly killed a Nazi officer after distracting him by stripping.

On Oct. 23, 1943, a group of female prisoners, including Polish Jewish dancer Franceska Mann, were brought to a room adjacent to the Auschwitz gas chambers and ordered to disrobe.

What happened next is unclear. Some accounts claim that Mann stripped off her clothes "provocatively," distracting the guards. Most accounts claim that Mann proceeded to grab an officer's gun, shooting him dead and wounding another guard before the Nazis were able to regroup and return fire, killing the prisoners.

Regardless of how it happened, some of the Nazis who were trying to murder them got dead first.

Of course, over the next two years, Nazis continued to try to kill people all over Europe. Which is why it turned out great that...

14. A British spy stole Nazi military secrets, delaying production of dangerous weapons.

Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens had two things going for her when the Nazis invaded France: She spoke fluent German and she was a tiny lady. After leveraging her size and gender to convince a bunch of Nazi officers she couldn't possibly be a threat, she managed to convince them to tell her where they were building their cool new rocket weapon, and she relayed that information to British intelligence. The Brits proceeded to drop bombs on those places, delaying production of the V-1 and V-2 rockets and saving countless lives.

Unlike many of the Nazis she hoodwinked, Rousseau de Clarens lived to the ripe old age of 98, being small and rejoicing in humiliating Nazis till the end.  

15. A 70-year-old German woman denies neo-Nazis a public platform by scratching out and painting over their graffiti.

Since the 1980s, Berlin resident Irmela Schramm has been waging a one-woman battle against swastikas, far-right propaganda, and fascist slogans scrawled on public property.

Her weapons? Nail polish remover, a scraper, and spray paint. The goal? To shut neo-Nazis the hell up.

Photo by John MacDougall/Getty Images.

"People tell me I am intolerant, that I don't respect the far-right's freedom of speech," she told CNN. "But I say: Freedom of speech has limits. It ends where hatred and contempt for humanity begins."

Nazis, however, don't always express their "hatred and contempt for humanity" in passive-aggressive artwork, which is why...

16. Vidal Sassoon and a group of Jewish war veterans engaged post-WWII Nazis in guerilla-style street fights.

Late-1940s England had a problem. Despite suffering through a six-year-long, knock-down drag-out brawl with Hitler and co., the country was somehow, against all odds, still full of Nazis. For obvious reasons, British Nazi leader Oswald Mosley (in Britain, even Nazis are named like third-tier Harry Potter villains) spent the later war years hiding out in Ireland. The year after it wrapped, however, a group of Mosley's followers began begging him to return to London to get the old civilian-threatening, Jew-slandering, immigrant-hating band back together.

In response, a band of British Jewish ex-servicemen, who had fought tooth and nail through Europe only to return to this baby fascist BS, began organizing to disrupt their rallies and shout down their propaganda — but mostly to beat the living crap out of them in the middle of the road.

One of those enthusiastically participating in the crap-beating was the group's most WTF member, Vidal Sassoon. Before he became famous for that bottle of two-in-one conditioner that's been sitting, three-quarters empty, in your mom's shower stall since 1993, the Jewish-British Sassoon was infamous for putting the hurt on British Nazis. The world-renowned hairdresser described the aftermath of one such brawl in a 2008 interview with the BBC.

"I'll never forget one morning I walked in and I had a hell of a bruise — it had been a difficult night the night before — and a client said to me, 'Good God, Vidal, what happened to your face?'" Sassoon recalled. "And I said, 'Oh, nothing, madam, I just fell over a hairpin.'"

Apparently, "I kicked some Nazis teeth in. Your move, Pert Plus," would have been a tad gauche for the polite stylist. Nonetheless, credit where due.

17. A world-famous comedian literally danced on Hitler's grave.

Illustration by Tom Eichacker.

In 1958, Groucho Marx decided to spend a little bit of that sweet founding-father-of-modern-film-comedy cash to take his friend, daughter, and family babysitter Judith Dwan Hallet to Dornum, Germany, to visit the graves of his grandparents. The group arrived at the cemetery only to discover that the area where they were buried, the Jewish section, had been destroyed.

A few days later, Marx asked his chauffeur to drive the travelers to the ruins of the bunker where Hitler had died.

Hallet described what happened next in a 2012 interview with MentalFloss:

"When they arrived, Hallet said, it was as if the war had happened the day before. Nothing had been cleaned up or repaired; piles of rubble made the landscape look positively post-apocalyptic. The ruins of the Führerbunker were about 20 feet tall, but Groucho climbed to the top and proceeded to perform what Hallet called 'a frenetic Charleston, for at least a minute or two, in a gesture of defiance.' When he was done, the legendary comedian requested that they leave Germany the next morning."

"The fun was gone," Hallet concluded, bafflingly denying the obvious reality that nothing, not bingo, not Yahtzee, not an indoor water slide, not a three week Disney World vacation, not a marathon of every single Marx Brothers movie ever made could be more fun than doing the jaybird step on the smoldering remains of the guy who basically invented Nazis.

18. An American suburb used Nazi rallies to gin up public support for anti-Nazi monuments.

The infamous 1977 neo-Nazi march through the predominately Jewish town of Skokie, Illinois, did not only inspire a fierce debate over the scope of the First Amendment. It also inspired an iconic "Blues Brothers" scene.

It also also inspired residents to make sure as many people as possible were as informed as possible about who Nazis really are. Fallout from the march led members of the community to band together to form the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, which helped complete the town's Holocaust Museum and Education Center in 2011.

19. Thousands of Holocaust survivors shame and resist Nazi ideology every day just by continuing to exist.

In the course of a half-decade, Nazis managed to systematically murder 12 million human beings. And yet, thanks to a timely military defeat, helped along by many of the acts listed above, many of the people Nazis tried to kill not only survived, but kept on surviving for decades after the fact. As of 2016, there were only about 100,000 Holocaust survivors left living. Still, that's 100,000 more than Nazis hoped there would be nearly 70 years after their extermination plan failed.

Students participate in the March of the Living in Poland. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Wikimedia Commons.

These survivors wound up becoming the key adopters of perhaps the most crucial Nazi fighting method of all:

20. Survivors and their descendants keep telling the truth about who Nazis really are and why it's important to stop them before it's too late.

Being a Nazi in 2017 requires believing, against all evidence, that the Nazis weren't all bad. For modern-day aspiring Goebbles, Hesses, and Goerings to accomplish that, minimizing the Holocaust or pretending it never happened, is plan A, B, and Z. With each passing of a survivor, that becomes easier.

With each person who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust telling their story or person teaching in their memory, it becomes harder to deny.

"It puts the responsibility on us, the next generation, the children of survivors, the grandchildren of survivors, to become as articulate as we can be in maintaining this memory and the mandate that comes with it," Michael Zank, 58, the director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies at Boston University, told Time in 2016.

Thankfully, you don't have to look very hard to find folks maintaining the memory. There's the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has an extensive, thorough education program on its website. Or the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, which chronicles the activities of the Jewish guerillas who fought Nazis behind enemy lines and teaches tactics for resisting fascism. Or the annual March of the Living or Classrooms Without Borders, which takes educators and students to Poland to meet with survivors and learn about Nazi atrocities firsthand.

It's not as flashy as an outdoor concert, a street brawl, or a handbag slap, but it's necessary. Because, inevitably...

Sooner or later, everyone who witnessed the atrocities the Nazis unleashed on the world will be gone.

Whether their ideology dies first or becomes human history's most ill-conceived reboot, that's up to the rest of us.

When it comes to fighting Nazis, you rarely get to pick the time and place.

For those of us alive in 2017, it's becoming clearer that's here and now.

Who's got a tuba?

Illustration by Tom Eichacker.

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."