Why the name “SkinnyTrees”?


SkinnyTrees: Lift Health for All was born out of the central themes of ChicagoCHEC (Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative). ChicagoCHEC aims to advance cancer health equity through meaningful scientific discovery, education, training, and community engagement.

Through ongoing conversations with those involved in ChicagoCHEC, it became increasingly clear that the story of health inequities needed to expand beyond the walls of academia and community organization meeting spaces. This is when SkinnyTrees was born.

This podcast was created for the student who wants to learn more, the community who wants to tell their story, the patient that felt left behind, the physician who sees the day-to-day issues unfold before them, and anybody else who ever thought about the world of healthcare access outside of their bubble. This podcast is for you and we hope that you enjoy it.


The title of SkinnyTrees was inspired by a 1984 classic by Sandra Cisneros titled, The House on Mango Street. An excerpt from the book reads:

They are the only ones who understand me. I am the only one who understands them. Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Four who do not belong here but are here. Four raggedy excuses planted by the city.

From our room we can hear them, but Nenny just sleeps and doesn’t appreciate these things. Their strength is their secret. They send ferocious roots beneath the ground. They grow up and they grow down and grab the earth between their hairy toes and bite the sky with violent teeth and never quit their anger. This is how they keep. Let one forget his reason for being, they’d all droop like tulips in a glass, each with their arms around the other. Keep, keep, keep, trees say when I sleep. They teach.

When I am too sad and too skinny to keep keeping, when I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees. When there is nothing left to look at on this street. Four who grew despite concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach. Four whose only reason is to be and be.

-The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros, p. 74-75

When the main character, Esperanza Cordero, speaks of the four skinny trees she sees from her bedroom window, she speaks of the trees ability to grow despite concrete. Trees that “reach and do not forget to reach.”

This same analogy can be said for many communities that experience health inequities. There is an intricate root system that perhaps we cannot see at a quick glance, but at a closer view, there is resilience, structure and the ability to continue to reach and reach towards health equity.