Only by creative collaboration can the medical research community
increase the number of underrepresented minorities in its ranks,
said keynote speaker Dr. Joan Reede of Harvard Medical School at
the 11th annual John W. Diggs Lecture and Scientific Poster Session
held on July 28. The poster session was added this year to highlight
contributions made to research by underrepresented minority scientists.
How do we create an inclusive and diverse environment? Reede said
many organizations are asking the same question. Her institution,
where she is dean for diversity and community partnership, and director
of the minority faculty development program, has responded by "creating
and sustaining bridges" through partnerships, consistency, communication
|Dr. Joan Reede discusses diversity, mentoring
and developing scientists’ careers.
"Careers are not linear," she said, explaining that most job paths — particularly
those of scientists — do not progress from one point to another
without a few side trips along the way. "Everybody's struggling
with diversity. Institutions alone cannot solve this problem. We
have to acknowledge that we are all in this together."
Reede briefly outlined the main concern, which is well known to
recruiters of potential career scientists: supply and demand — not
enough people in the pipeline. It's a problem that needs further
study, Reede said, from several new angles. In the meantime, however,
Harvard has had success in growing its scientific workforce diversity
by instituting a number of bold approaches, including the Biomedical
Science Careers Program (BSCP).
One of 16 programs Reede has helped develop at Harvard to address
pipeline issues, BSCP identifies and provides mentoring for underrepresented
minority students, trainees and professionals who are pursuing
biomedical careers. The program was founded in collaboration with
the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Board of
Reede emphasized, however, that Harvard did not rely on any one way
to tackle the problem. "It's not just because of programs in my office," she
noted. "It's because of a commitment by many institutions."
|Dr. Natascha Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow in NIDA’s
Molecular Neuropsychiatry Branch, is among more than 70 presenters
discussing posters after the lecture.
||Donald Glass, an M.D./Ph.D. student at Baylor
College of Medicine, explains his research.
She said health — and health research — communities
have to consider several issues: the role of diversity in health
outcomes, and in education and training, and how and when students
decide to enter and remain in a science career trajectory.
NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman,
who earlier in the program received the first Leadership in Scientific
Diversity Award from the NIH Black Scientists Association, shared
several lessons he said he's learned over the years about recruitment
and retention of scientists:
First, "there can be no interest in science unless people have
the opportunity to work in a lab or clinic" setting, he said.
Next, "it's not sufficient just to bring people here. They have to
|Dr. Roland Owens of NIDDK receives the Philip
J. Browning Scientific Pioneer Award from NIDA’s Dr.
||NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman
(l) receives the first Leadership in Scientific Diversity Award
from former NIH Black Scientists Association president Dr.
Chad Womack, now of Howard University.
And finally, "NIH has significantly revamped our search process" to
broaden the way it looks for potential researchers, he concluded. "NIH
is committed to diversity in our science and medical programs,
and we're committed to doing a better job" of recruiting and retaining
the best scientists.
Also recognized during the lecture was senior investigator Dr.
Roland Owens, chief of the molecular biology section in NIDDK's
Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology, who received the
Philip J. Browning Scientific Pioneer Award.
Diggs, former NIH deputy director for extramural research, died
at age 59 in 1995. He was widely known as a mentor to scientists
young and old and an active promoter of numerous research careers
at NIH and beyond. Dr. Vivian Pinn, NIH associate director for
research on women's health, spoke warmly of Diggs' friendship,
painting a vivid picture of him at the lecture named in his honor. "Those
of us who knew him miss him tremendously," she said. "May his flame
of decency never be extinguished."