8 important jobs that people should be paid a lot more to do.

There's nothing like a hard day's work to give someone a sense of purpose.

Sure, you may come home feeling like a puddle of a human, drained from long hours...


GIF from "Arrested Development."

...but if you take pride in your work, you can plop down at home with a feeling of triumph from all you were able to achieve for the day.

And maybe some cheese as a bonus. (#TreatYoSelf). GIF from "30 Rock."

Unfortunately, self-worth is not an accepted form of payment for your creditors and bill collectors. So your paycheck really matters.

But in this age of gaping inequality, many aren't earning fair wages for their labor. That's especially the case in certain lines of work. Every day, millions of people clock into jobs that both support our daily lives and are critical to the country's future.

They may not be developing the latest and greatest apps and gadgets or performing Wall Street wizardry to make money out of thin air, but they do make important contributions. And they're being grossly underpaid for it.

If you work in one of these eight jobs, here's to the prospect of a well-deserved raise:

1. Public school teachers

Photo by Michelle Collins/FEMA Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons.

Median income: $53,760 - $56,310

By 2021, the U.S. Department of Education projects that public pre-K-12 schools will enroll 91% of students in the U.S. If you really believe "children are the future," then logic would follow that, y'know, brighter students, brighter future, right? That's where teachers come in.

Though more research has to be done, an early study on the effects of paying teachers much more handsomely has shown significantly improved academic outcomes for students. So boosting public school teachers' salaries could be seen as an investment our the future.

2. Registered nurses

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Median income: $66,640

Certainly compared to most U.S. workers, nurses seem to have it pretty good salary-wise. But if we look at how nursing has changed in a time of extreme health care costs and the rising care demands of an aging population, envy starts to fade.

Nurses are working longer hours and taking on more responsibility than ever before. Those with advanced nursing degrees now do work historically performed by doctors simply because it's cheaper for them to do it.

And as the frontline of patient care, modern nurses are increasingly expected to be big thinkers who can help identify answers to industry challenges through research and new technologies.

3. Farm workers

Photo by CIAT/Flickr.

Median income: $19,330

These folks toil in the unforgiving heat of the sun to feed and clothe the rest of us. And they do it for a minimum wage — if they're lucky. Some farm workers are paid a "piece rate" or a volume-based payment (e.g., per pound, box, or basket).

If they're undocumented, as many of these workers are, they not only might not get the minimum they're due, but they may also face daily abuse and harassment by their supervisors — especially if they're women.

4. Child care workers

Photo by Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images.

Median income: $19,730

Parents want the best for their kids, sometimes obsessively so. Since crating children is neither helpful nor legal, child care workers are there when parents can't be to provide little ones with a safe and nurturing developmental experience.

In the earliest years of human life, capable child care workers play an integral role in preparing kids for the challenges of being bigger kids, teenagers, and beyond. It's a big responsibility that's worthy of at least a living wage.

5. Paramedics


Photo by Jenny Starley/Flickr.

Median income: $31,700

When sh*t hits the fan and emergency medical situations arise, these folks are the first on the scene to help people in trouble. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are trained to save lives day in and day out, often in unpredictable and dangerous situations. They deserve more than what amounts to an entry-level office worker salary.

6. Home health aides


Photo by Tunstall/Flickr.

Median income: $21,380

No one wants their grandma to be that "I've fallen and I can't get up!" lady. Home health aides help to prevent that from happening. They care for those who've logged their hours, raised their families, and now need a little help living their golden years with dignity and in the comfort of their homes. Should that work not be similarly dignified with a fair wage?

7. Social workers

Photo by Joe Houghton/Flickr.

Median income: $45,500

They do the hard work of guiding families and individuals along life's rockiest roads. Social workers help people stay afloat emotionally, socially, and even economically when they need it most.

Though lawmakers and other talking heads tout family values and home stability as a virtue of civilized society, we rarely if ever hear them advocate for the investments in the social workforce necessary to help people achieve that.

8. Food service workers

Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr.

Median income: $19,560

As the economy recovers, our appetite for dining out is making a fierce comeback. Someone has to feed that hunger, so food service has seen some of the largest job growth since the recession.

But how optimistic can we be about a labor recovery based on poverty-wage gigs — especially with a federal minimum wage that, when adjusted for inflation, peaked in 1968?

With fast food and other low-wage workers protesting throughout the country, seven states and a handful of cities decided to raise their minimum wages to $15 last year. And 16 more states are expected to raise their minimum wages in 2016.

Hopefully these are signs that we're on the verge of a tipping point for wage justice.

This is far from an all-inclusive list. And you don't have to agree with every one of the above to appreciate the larger point.

A Pew Research Center headline said it best: "The American middle class is losing ground." Middle-income earners comprised the majority of the working population 45 years ago.

Charts by Pew Research Center.

Today, middle earners are dwindling, forced into a growing low-income tier as higher earners — the highest earners, really — capture an unfair share of the country's income and wealth.

And no amount of bootstrapping or hard work on the job will change this trend. Only widespread pressure from a pissed-off majority will.

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

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."