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"Boxing is for men, and it is about men and it is men. A celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for being lost.”

Joyce Carol Oates wrote that in her 1987 book, "On Boxing." Though she may change her tune after watching Claressa Shields in the ring.


Shields (right) in the 2012 Olympics. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

In 2012, Shields became the first American woman to earn an Olympic gold medal in boxing, a monumental achievement for anyone, but especially for a 17-year-old who discovered the sport just six years prior.

In hearing her story, it's abundantly clear: Nothing — not doubt, not money, not family hardship — will stop Claressa Shields. Absolutely nothing.

Long before she stepped in the ring, Shields was a fighter.

In Flint, Michigan, her family faced extreme poverty (she even went without food so her younger siblings could eat). Shields was sexually assaulted and molested as a child, and she often stayed with relatives and friends, as her own home life was unpredictable.

But with writing, prayer, and a push from her dad, she quite literally fought her way through an unthinkable upbringing.

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

Shields' father was incarcerated for most of her childhood. But after his release, he introduced his daughter to his first love: boxing.

He told her all about the champ, Muhammad Ali, and his daughter, celebrated boxer Laila Ali. That was all Claressa needed to hear.

At 11, he signed her up for lessons at a local boxing gym. She took to the demanding sport almost instantly, leaving quite an impression on trainer Jason Crutchfield.

"She was catching on real quick, real quick," Crutchfield told Independent Lens. "I said: 'Whoa! You need to come with me.' And I just took her under my wing from there."

GIF via PBS/YouTube.

Life at home was inconsistent and uncertain, but boxing and the gym became her safe haven.

While her friends started going to parties on weekends, Shields spent her Fridays in the gym, training with Crutchfield. Her entire life revolved around boxing.

Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.

She soon earned the nickname T-Rex for her slight frame and short arms. "But I used to always be swinging," she told ESPNW.

It's that drive, that fire, that helped Shields earn the gold medal in London in 2012.

Photos by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.

And she hasn't lost a bout since. Seriously.

When she returns to the games this month, Shields will have more than a medal on her mind.

Not just silencing women's boxing's many critics or becoming the first American boxer (male or female) to win back-to-back boxing gold medals, but bringing much-needed attention to the city she loves. Shields is one of Flint's hometown heroes, and the embattled community could really use one right now.

GIF via PBS/YouTube.

"I'm fighting for my family, I'm fighting for my future, I'm fighting for my city -- to give them some hope and faith, because it's so bad in Flint," Shields told ESPNW. "I always fight harder than I would if I were fighting for just a medal."

Shields' story is one of triumph, courage, and grit.

In 2012, she shared some writing from her journal with the New Yorker. In her entry from December 2011, the then-16-year old wrote in her journal (which she named Olympia):

"It just hit me. The reason that I box is to prove dudes, men wrong. They say women can’t box? Olympia man I’m finna start training so hard there’s no male can even see a mistake in me.”


Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.

She has no time for doubts. No time for haters. She's in it to win it. And with heart and talent like hers, she just might.

Want to see T-Rex in action? A documentary about her OlympIc journey, "T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold," premieres Aug. 2 on PBS.

All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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