Cure for Cancer: Gleneara Bates


First, Gleneara Bates thought she’d become a senator. She liked the idea of “arguing” on the floor of Congress. She studied political science and economics in college, and she got a law degree. Then, she went into social work here and in her native Arizona, working with children, and disseminating Sexual Health Care information to foster care agencies. “You’re working with a vulnerable population.”

Now, she’s a research assistant — junior research scientist at the Columbia Mesothelioma Center at the Columbia University Medical Center in Upper Manhattan. She works under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Taub on improving cancer patients’ quality of life.

Next: medical school and a Ph.D. program. “I want to cure cancer” — her mother is a breast cancer survivor, she says. “But I need to find out what causes it.” First, she’ll pursue the M.D. degree. Then the Ph.D.

Growing up, she always had an interest in things Jewish, but did not find out till her teens that her mother is descended from Ethiopian Jews, which means she is Jewish.

(Her mother had suffered discrimination growing up as a black Jew, and didn’t want her children to experience the same fate).

Bates has studied Judaism intensively; now she leads an observant life. Her apartment is kosher, she’s shomer Shabbat, and she’s active at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side, and the Jewish Center on the Upper West Side.

Biblical name, a queen: After she discovered she was Jewish, Bates gave herself the Hebrew name of Esther, her favorite biblical character. “She was a strong person,” Bates says. “She was a complex person. I am a complex person.”

Favorite movie, a prince: Bates’ favorite film is “The Prince of Egypt,” the 1998 DreamWorks’ animated musical about the life of Moses. “I just love the story of Moses,” she says.

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