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31 celebrities who smashed the stigma surrounding mental illness in 2016.

"Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist."

31 celebrities who smashed the stigma surrounding mental illness in 2016.

It may not seem like that big of a deal when a celebrity speaks up about their experiences with mental illness. But it is.

Throughout 2016, dozens of actors, authors, artists, and athletes — trailblazers we're used to seeing smiling on red carpets or snagging gold medals on TV — shared the personal battles they've faced behind closed doors. It was a groundbreaking year.

“It levels the playing field," Aaron Harvey says of the many public figures who chose to speak up. Harvey is the founder of Intrusive Thoughts, a group set on humanizing those living with mental illness. “Suddenly, you realize the same struggles that you have might be the same struggles that someone you really idolize have. And that [makes it] OK."


The stigma surrounding mental illness is taking lives. Many millions of people living with conditions like depression and anxiety are shamed into believing there's something inherently wrong with them — that they're weak, for instance, or even dangerous to others. They suffer in silence because of it.

When a person with a platform becomes a face others can relate to, it becomes a little bit easier for someone else to follow in their footsteps, talk to someone, and get the help they need. Speaking up can save a life.

Here are 31 celebrities who spoke out in 2016 — some of them for the first time — about their experiences living with a mental illness:

1. Actress Kristen Bell wrote about why you can't trust all of your thoughts when you're battling depression.

Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

"For me, depression is not sadness. It’s not having a bad day and needing a hug. It gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming, and it shut down my mental circuit board. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure. Now, after seeking help, I can see that those thoughts, of course, couldn’t have been more wrong." — Kristen Bell, on living with depression

2. Singer Selena Gomez reminded us that you never really know what's going on in someone else's head.

Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

"I had to stop. 'Cause I had everything, and I was absolutely broken inside. And I kept it all together enough to where I would never let you down, but I kept it too much together, to where I let myself down. I don't want to see your bodies on Instagram, I want to see what's in here. [puts hand on heart] I'm not trying to get validation, nor do I need it anymore. ... If you are broken, you don’t have to stay broken." — Selena Gomez, on living with anxiety and depression

3. Musical artist Kid Cudi got candid about the limitations that living with a mental illness put on his own life.

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images.

"My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it. I can't make new friends because of it. I don't trust anyone because of it and Im tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me?" — Kid Cudi, on living with anxiety and depression

4. Actor Wentworth Miller opened up about becoming the butt of a body-shaming joke amid his struggle to survive.

Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images.

"Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without. Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist." — Wentworth Miller, on living with depression

5. Actress Hayden Panettiere shared with fans that they might be seeing less of her because, first and foremost, she needed to prioritize getting well.

Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

“The postpartum depression I have been experiencing has impacted every aspect of my life. Rather than stay stuck due to unhealthy coping mechanisms, I have chosen to take time to reflect holistically on my health and life. Wish me luck!" — Hayden Panettiere, on living with postpartum depression

6. Singer Zayn Malik penned an essay on why he had to cancel performances due to severe anxiety.

Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP.

"The thing is, I love performing. I love the buzz. I don’t want to do any other job. That’s why my anxiety is so upsetting and difficult to explain. It’s this thing that swells up and blocks out your rational thought processes. Even when you know you want to do something, know that it will be good for you, that you’ll enjoy it when you’re doing it, the anxiety is telling you a different story. It’s a constant battle within yourself." — Zayn Malik, on living with anxiety

7. Artist Lady Gaga revealed a secret about her own battles at an event benefitting young homeless teens in New York.

Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images.

"My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others. I told the kids today that I suffer from a mental illness. I suffer from PTSD. I've never told that to anyone before, so here we are." — Lady Gaga, on living with post-traumatic stress disorder

8. NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall explained why organizing with one another — not hiding away — is crucial for those living with a mental illness.

Photo by Julio Cortez/AP.

“I thought, ‘How many others are out there suffering?’ I tell people all the time, you know, where we’re at in [the mental health] community is where the cancer and HIV community was 20, 25 years ago. So we have to galvanize this community.” — Brandon Marshall, on living with borderline personality disorder

9. Actress Rachel Bloom showed us why we shouldn't let stereotypes about medication dictate whether we should get the proper help we need.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards.

"I had gone to therapists, but for the first time I sought out a psychiatrist. In his office I finally felt safe. I told him everything. Each session improved my life. He diagnosed me with low-grade depression and put me on a small amount of Prozac. There’s a stereotype (I had believed) that antidepressants numb you out; that didn’t happen to me." — Rachel Bloom, on living with depression

10. Musical artist Justin Vernon of Bon Iver got real about what a panic attack can actually feel like.

Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images.

“It was like: ‘Oh my god, my chest is caving in, what the f**k is going on?’ I don’t like talking about it, but I feel it’s important to talk about it, so that other people who experience it don’t feel it’s just happening to them.” — Justin Vernon, on living with panic attacks and depression

11. Singer Demi Lovato pointed out the importance of consistently staying on top of your health for the long haul.

Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

"It’s not something where you see a therapist once or you see your psychiatrist once, it’s something you maintain to make sure that you want to live with mental illness. You have to take care of yourself.” — Demi Lovato, on living with bipolar disorder

12. Actress Lena Dunham opened up about how anxiety affects her day-to-day routines.

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images.

“I’ve always been anxious, but I haven’t been the kind of anxious that makes you run 10 miles a day and make a lot of calls on your BlackBerry. I’m the kind of anxious that makes you like, ‘I’m not going to be able to come out tonight, tomorrow night, or maybe for the next 67 nights.’” — Lena Dunham, on living with anxiety

13. NFL guard Brandon Brooks discussed the difference between game-day jitters and the type of anxiety he experiences.

Photo by Greg Trott/AP.

“I wanted to get to the bottom of what’s going on. Basically, I found out recently that I have an anxiety condition. What I mean by anxiety condition [is] not nervousness or fear of the game. ... I have, like, an obsession with the game. It’s an unhealthy obsession right now and I’m working with team doctors to get everything straightened out and getting the help that I need and things like that.” — Brandon Brooks, on living with anxiety

14. Actress Evan Rachel Wood spoke out about how our world's tendency to overlook or dismiss certain groups can complicate a person's mental health.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

"For so long, I was ashamed. You’re dealing with the shame that the world has imposed upon you, and then on top of that, the shame of identifying that way. You’re totally looked down upon in and out of the LGBT community. A good way to combat that and the stereotypes is to be vocal." — Evan Rachel Wood, on living with depression and coming out as bisexual

15. Actress Cara Delevingne got real about her early struggles living with a sense of hopelessness.

Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

"I'm very good at repressing emotion and seeming fine. As a kid I felt like I had to be good and I had to be strong because my mum wasn't. So, when it got to being a teenager and all the hormones and the pressure and wanting to do well at school — for my parents, not for me — I had a mental breakdown. I was suicidal. I couldn't deal with it any more. I realized how lucky and privileged I was, but all I wanted to do was die." — Cara Delevingne, on living with depression

16. Comedian Patton Oswalt laid out the difference between living with depression and surviving the devastation of losing a loved one.

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP.

“Depression is more seductive. Its tool is: ‘Wouldn’t it be way more comfortable to stay inside and not deal with people?’ Grief is an attack on life. It’s not a seducer. It’s an ambush or worse. It stands right out there and says: ‘The minute you try something, I’m waiting for you.’” — Patton Oswalt, on living with depression and the grief brought on by his wife's death

17. Singer Kesha opened up about what led her to a rehab program focused on treating eating disorders.

Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images.

"I felt like part of my job was to be as skinny as possible and, to make that happen, I had been abusing my body. I just wasn't giving it the energy it needed to keep me healthy and strong." — Kesha, on living with an eating disorder

18. Author John Green wrote about the dangers of romanticizing mental illness.

Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images for Allied-THA.

"Mental illness is stigmatized, but it is also romanticized. If you google the phrase 'all artists are,' the first suggestion is 'mad.' We hear that genius is next to insanity. ... Of course, there are kernels of truth here: Many artists and storytellers do live with mental illness. But many don’t. And what I want to say today, I guess, is that you can be sane and be an artist, and also that if you are sick, getting help  —  although it is hard and exhausting and inexcusably difficult to access  —  will not make you less of an artist." — John Green, on living with depression

19. Musical artist Halsley discussed her attempt at suicide as a teenager.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

“I had tried to kill myself. I was an adolescent; I didn’t know what I was doing. Because I was 17, I was still in a children’s ward. Which was terrifying. I was in there with 9-year-olds who had tried to kill themselves.” — Halsley, on living with bipolar disorder, and once staying in a psychiatric hospital

20. Prince Harry addressed the problem with assuming people who seemingly have their lives in order aren't struggling with an invisible issue.

Photo by Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images.

You know, I really regret not ever talking about it. ... A lot of people think if you’ve got a job, if you’ve got financial security, if you’ve got a family, you’ve got a house, all that sort of stuff — everyone seems to think that is all you need and you are absolutely fine to deal with stuff.” — Prince Harry, on living with grief after his mother's death

21. Actress Rowan Blanchard explained why living with a mental illness can be a learning opportunity.

Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for WE Day.

"I learned this year that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive. They can exist within me at the same time in the same moment. While also becoming more forgiving of myself and my emotions, I became more forgiving of others, specifically other teenagers." — Rowan Blanchard, on living with depression

22. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps spoke candidly about why even gold medals couldn't truly make him happy.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images.

“I went in with no self-confidence, no self-love. I think the biggest thing was, I thought of myself as just a swimmer, and nobody else. ... I was lost, pushing a lot people out of my life — people that I wanted and needed in my life. I was running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from.” — Michael Phelps, on living with mental illness

23. Actress Jenifer Lewis talked about how the AIDS epidemic led her to realize she needed help.

Photo by Jean Baptiste LaCroix/AFP/Getty Images.

"Sometimes I suspected that something was not quite right. Especially during the time when the AIDS epidemic was at its height and my grief was pretty much out of control. No one was talking about bipolar disorder and mental illness back then. I had lost so many friends and loved ones. My spiral into depression was overwhelming; I could not function. That’s when I couldn’t ignore the fact that something was wrong anymore.” — Jenifer Lewis, on living with bipolar disorder

24. Singer Adele highlighted why not each form of mental illness manifests the same way in every person.

Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP.

"My knowledge of postpartum [depression] — or post-natal, as we call it in England — is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job. But I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life. ... It can come in many different forms." — Adele, on living with postpartum depression

25. Actor Jared Padalecki launched a new "I Am Enough" campaign, selling shirts to support initiatives that fight depression and self-harm.

Photo by Chris Frawley/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. via Getty Images.

“I am enough. And you are enough. ... I know I can keep fighting and I know that I’m trying to love myself, but sometimes you feel like you’re not enough. So this message is helping me kind of understand that I am enough — just the way I was made.” — Jared Padalecki, on living with depression

26. Actress Amanda Seyfried nailed why we should be treating mental illness just as seriously as any other disease or condition.

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images for cle de peau BEAUTE.

"I’m on [antidepressant] Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else." — Amanda Seyfried, on living with anxiety and depression

27. Musical artist Keke Palmer opened up about how her own mental illness postponed the release of a new album.

Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Glamour.

“I stopped trying all together because I allowed people to make me believe that being an artist meant having big budget music videos and big record producers backing you. When in reality, all being an artist means is to be fearless in your creative pursuits. My anxiety, caused by the habit of unconsciously holding my breath, coupled with the stress of my personal life at that time created a lot of hard years of depression for me.” — Keke Palmer, on living with anxiety

28. Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones said she's in a good place right now, thanks to identifying her struggle and finding the help that was right for her.

Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.

"Finding out that it was called something was the best thing that ever happened to me! The fact that there was a name for my emotions and that a professional could talk me through my symptoms was very liberating. There are amazing highs and very low lows. My goal is to be consistently in the middle. I’m in a very good place right now." — Catherine Zeta-Jones, on living with bipolar disorder

29. Actor Devon Murray used World Mental Health Day to share his own ups and downs with fans on Twitter.

Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images.

"I've been battling depression in silence for ten years and only recently spoke about it and [it] has made a huge difference. I had suicidal thoughts this year and that was the kick up the arse that I needed! Open up, talk to people. If you suspect a friend or family member is suffering in silence [reach out] to them. Let them know you care." — Devon Murray, on living with depression

30. Musical artist Jade Thirlwall discussed a dark time in her life that looked picture-perfect from afar.

Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Sony Pictures.

"My periods stopped and things were getting out of control, but I don't think I really cared about what was happening to me. I felt so depressed at the time that I just wanted to waste away and disappear. ... It should have been a really happy time — my career was successful, 'Black Magic' was doing well, and we were traveling and performing. On the surface I was happy, but inside I felt broken." — Jade Thirlwall, on battling anorexia

31. Musician Ellie Goulding explained how her panic attacks often came at the worst possible times.

Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images.

"I was skeptical [of going to therapy] at first, because I’d never had therapy, but not being able to leave the house was so debilitating. And this was when my career was really taking off. My surroundings would trigger a panic attack, so I couldn’t go to the studio unless I was lying down in the car with a pillow over my face. I used to beat myself up about it." — Ellie Goulding, on living with anxiety and facing panic attacks

Many celebrities have helped bring the conversation around mental health into the mainstream. But it's on us to make the real change happen.

“While it’s amazing to have celebrities out there blazing trails and introducing a radical new transparency," Harvey notes, "the most important thing is that individual sufferers communicate with their everyday connections. If we really want to make an impact on stigma, it can’t just be a headline."

If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255). If you want to learn more about mental illness, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

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."