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It is with great sadness that we share the news that our friend and colleague, Antronette (Toni) Yancey, MD, MPH, professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, lost her battle with lung cancer on April 23, 2013. She was 55.
Toni was an extraordinary life force who made an impact on everyone she knew - from those who only met her once, to those who considered her a lifelong friend. A true renaissance woman, Toni was a physician and a public health researcher and activist; she was also a poet and author, a former model and, at 6'2", a Division 1 basketball player during her undergraduate years at Northwestern.
Toni was passionate about improving the health of vulnerable populations and devoted her career to eliminating health disparities. She created "Instant Recess", a program dedicated to "making America healthier 10 minutes at a time." Her idea to incorporate brief bouts of physical activity into daily routine whether at school or work or worship, earned her numerous awards including the Pioneering Innovation Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She was one of a handful of national thought leaders asked to serve on the board of directors of the Partnership for a Healthier America, the non-profit that guided First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign.
Toni co-founded the Fielding School's UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity through which she championed the cause of social justice. She was tireless in her commitment to ensure that research findings would be translated to community programs and policy to transform lives. She made change happen in countless ways, from advocating for policy change, to cajoling employers to allow their staff to engage in Instant Recess on paid time, serving as a role model to countless minority students, and pounding the pavement in the community to connect on a personal level with the people she loved.
Few individuals bring creativity to so many fields. Toni was a poet as well as a researcher and activist. Her book of poetry and art, An Old Soul with a Young Spirit: Poetry in the Era of Desegregation Recovery, was published in 1997 and sold out of its first printing. Her spoken word music CD was released in 2001.
More than that, as a human being she reached out and touched so many of us. Her work transformed lives across the country.
We are deeply saddened by the enormous loss to our field in the passing of this remarkable woman. We grieve with Toni's family, friends, colleagues at the school and across the country, and the entire field of public health. When details of a memorial service become available we will share them.
Dean Jody Heymann
Professor Roshan Bastani