In life, the late Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson was a shining example of a prosecutor with a Solomon-like wisdom that meted out justice with toughness when needed, compassion when called for, and a strong sense of fairness for all.
And now his tragic death could help save countless other lives.
That after City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) today launched ‘Gift of Life’ day with Thompson’s widow, Lu-Shawn Thompson, to honor his life and raise awareness of the importance of colorectal screenings in partnership with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The initiative will target all New Yorkers to help address colon cancer as a major public health problem.
Thompson’s death from cancer sent shock waves throughout New York City and gave pause to many regarding the state of their own personal health. Thompson, a 50-year-old prominent District Attorney, husband and father of two had just announced his cancer diagnosis in October a week before the public was notified of his death.
“Ken’s life made a tremendous impact on the lives of Brooklynites and his death does not diminish that fact,” said Cornegy. “Through the Gift of Life initiative, many people will be reminded of his example and with the support of their loved ones, they will have the opportunity to get life-saving screenings in their neighborhood.”
The campaign will focus on the power of relationships by asking family and friends to give the “Gift of Life” by encouraging their loved ones in their lives to get screened, which ultimately saves lives. The campaign will start at Woodhull Hospital and continue to Interfaith Medical Center and other health providers throughout Brooklyn.
“My husband was a true leader. Whether he was advocating for the wrongfully convicted or prosecuting a dangerous predator, Kenny always did what was right and just. I know he would want to be a champion for combating this serious health issue and do all that he could to help,” said Lu-Shawn Thompson, Thompson’s wife of 17 years.
Colon cancer continues to be a major health problem and is the second deadliest cancer in the city. Every year more than 1,200 New Yorkers die from colon cancer. Although colon cancer has a high mortality, it remains one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
“Today we honor D.A. Thompson’s memory by encouraging all men and women aged 50 years and older to get screened for colon cancer. When caught early, colon cancer has a 90 percent survival rate,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The City has successfully closed the gap in colon cancer screening rates across racial groups – a remarkable achievement. We must now increase early screening rates across the board.”
New York City adults ages 65 years and over have a higher prevalence of timely colon cancer screening compared with adults ages 50-64 (75% vs. 65%). Furthermore, there is a persistent gap among the insured and uninsured populations. Timely colon cancer screening was more commonly reported among adults ages 50+ with health insurance coverage than those without (71% vs 50%1 ). Focusing on spreading awareness in these populations and therefore increasing the screening rate has the potential to save thousands of more New York lives.
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “In the DA’s office we know that early intervention and proactive monitoring keeps communities safe from crime. The same is true for early detection and treatment of this disease. Screenings are an important proactive tool to combatting colorectal cancer. We must do all we can to intercept this disease and protect the physical health of our community. I applaud Mrs. Thompson, the Mayor De Blasio and Council Member Cornegy, Jr., for their coordinated leadership in taking on this public health issue and working to raise awareness and reduce the rates of colorectal cancer in Brooklyn.”
“Woodhull commends Mrs. Thompson and Council Member Cornegy for shining a light on the importance of screenings for colon cancer which is a preventable disease that is also easily treatable if detected early. Screenings should be a priority and we hope highlighting the disease this way will encourage community members to lead healthier lives,” said Gregory Calliste, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull.