Saying farewell to Esther Bush

URBAN LEAGUE OF GREATER PITTSBURGH CEO ESTHER BUSH calls for the gun violence to stop in Pittsburgh’s African American communities, during a press conference at Freedom Unlimited in the Hill District, Aug. 14, 2018. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr./File)


For more than a decade, Esther Bush has been an essential voice in the “Take Charge of Your Health” partnership. Every month, she has provided to the New Pittsburgh Courier readership her expertise, vision and conviction to improve health disparities and to bring the research community and the general public closer together toward a shared goal of improving health for everyone. As Ms. Bush steps down as president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, it is vital to highlight and applaud her hard work and dedication to this series and to the health and well-being of the entire region.

The “Take Charge of Your Health” series began in 2011 to accompany the publication of Allegheny County Health in Black and White, a report produced by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Health Department and the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research. At Ms. Bush’s suggestion, the newspaper series was created as a way to disseminate the report’s findings. It was her firm belief that the right information needed to be available for people to make well-informed decisions about their health.

As a research participant herself, Ms. Bush also felt strongly about encouraging people of color to get involved in research studies. She knew that when African Americans do not participate in research that it results in findings that do not always reflect their health needs or concerns. However, Ms. Bush also knew that the long and understandable history of African Americans’ mistrust of research had to be acknowledged, respected and addressed. Sharing her positive experiences with research helped people see a way to be involved in research themselves and ensure that their needs are included.

That it was Esther Bush who forged this partnership and encouraged people to be informed and involved in their health was key to the series’ success. Black and Brown communities in Pittsburgh have had an ally in Ms. Bush almost like no other. A Pittsburgh native, Ms. Bush began her career as an educator and, after earning a graduate degree, she was recruited to serve in the National Urban League in New York. She eventually returned home to lead the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh for nearly three decades. It would be impossible to list all of her achievements in this role, but they include starting the city’s first charter school, increasing housing and food support for marginalized families and advocating for social justice. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Bush mobilized the Urban League to fundraise for and provide essential services, including rent, utility and mortgage assistance; partner with UPMC on a vaccine clinic in Duquesne; and work with Koppers to distribute pandemic supplies to residents of Homewood, the Hill District, the North Side and Duquesne.

The “Take Charge of Your Health” series includes a monthly commentary—a note directly from Ms. Bush to Pittsburghers. She has always spoken honestly and with love to the people for whom she has fought and carried in her heart. Though we will miss her words on this page, Ms. Bush’s passion and efforts to uplift the community will be ongoing.

Thank you, Ms. Bush, for many years of leadership. We will continue to follow your example of caring for people’s health and well-being and ensuring biomedical research and innovation serves everyone.



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