EDI Names Fraser a Game Changer, Gorham a Change Agent
Colin Fraser, program specialist at the Center for Scientific Review, serves as chair of the partners in review committee (PIRC). The NIH Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) has named him a Black History Month Game Changer for his role in creating the committee, which seeks to enhance communication and working relationships between extramural support staff and scientific staff. The committee is made up of senior staff and people in administrative, human resources and scientific fields.
“I would have to say this career has chosen me,” Fraser said. “NIH is full of diversity and we play a big role when it comes to helping others in need. One of the professional accomplishments I am most proud of is forming PIRC.”
He offers this advice to any new employee starting a career at NIH: “Collaborate and get involved,” Fraser said. “I have found that working with others who have a different outlook on things than me and getting involved in making the organization work better for all of us has helped me to grow in my career…Diversity is very important to me at NIH, because seeing others who look like me have the same chance and opportunities as everybody else is motivating.”
Shileta Gorham has been recognized by EDI as a change agent for bringing attention to the accessibility challenges for individuals with physical disabilities. Because of Gorham, the sidewalk between Bldg. 2 and Bldg. 31 on the main campus was removed and replaced at a less-steep grade that allows individuals with physical disabilities to access Bldg. 31 safely without needing to change their route.
“This career most certainly found me,” Gorham said, “and I enthusiastically wanted to be a part of it. I wanted individuals like me to have a seat at the table and have a voice. I gained an appreciation and passion for inclusion before coming to NIH, but as an individual with a disability, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“People with disabilities are often not considered for most careers,” she continued, “and though this is changing—progress is slow—the fact remains that the unemployment rate of persons with disabilities is much higher than that of individuals without disabilities.”
People with disabilities are a demographic of individuals who want to work, she pointed out, “and more often than not, will work harder than an individual without a disability, in my opinion.”
Gorham, who works in EDI’s Division of Guidance, Education and Marketing, said her proudest professional accomplishment is the Global Accessibility Initiative.
“The initiative came to be during my first few months as a new employee of NIH during my commute around campus,” she explained. “I noticed a few barriers that prevented me from being able to travel the campus independently and efficiently. When traveling to and from Bldgs. 2, 31 and others, I noticed that many of the entryways were difficult to get into and out of, due to them being heavy or not easy to open. Not only that, I noticed that the sidewalks were either steeply sloped in certain areas and either cracked or uneven, making it difficult for me to travel.”
Realizing that these things could be barriers to others with disabilities, Gorham wanted to help. So she started taking note of things that would make the campus more accessible for her and others in the NIH community. She also invited others to identify barriers they experienced while traveling around the campus and send them to her.
Gorham then compiled a list of things that would make NIH both more inclusive and more accessible. That list developed into the accessibility initiative.
“Diversity is important in general—not only within NIH,” she said. “Diversity brings people together from different cultural backgrounds and experiences. A diverse workforce allows for an environment where a range of different approaches and ideas can be cultivated and implemented to achieve the mission of NIH.”
Gorham said she values NIH as a workplace.
“I haven’t been with NIH for as long as some of my colleagues, but in my time here, I have enjoyed the environment in which I work, the people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and the copious amount of activities held on campus that allow for work/life balance,” she concluded. “There are also the many opportunities to grow and succeed. The experiences you gain at NIH will last you a lifetime.”