March 1, 2021
On March 1, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, launched a new initiative, UNITE, to identify actions to address structural racism at NIH, the institutions we support, and anywhere NIH research activities take place, with the overall goal of ending racial inequities across the biomedical research enterprise. The UNITE initiative’s efforts are informed by five committees comprising experts across NIH institutes and centers. NIH is also seeking advice and guidance from outside of the agency through the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), informed by the ACD Working Group on Diversity, and through a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input from the public and from stakeholder organizations.
I reaffirm my commitment to upholding NIH’s principles on equal employment opportunity, diversity, and inclusion. I stand with Dr. Collins in supporting a work environment that provides all employees—regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability—with diverse, equitable, and inclusive workspaces, free from discrimination, humiliation, and harassment.
As I wrote last August, I am actively working with NIDCD leadership to increase the proportion of NIDCD-funded investigators who are members of underrepresented minority groups. I am continuing our commitment to building and sustaining a diverse research workforce by using mechanisms to provide support for training as well as for the early and middle stages of career development. As part of this commitment, I have taken the following steps:
- Action 1: I have committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer in my office and continue to coordinate with the NIH Office of Human Resources to establish this position. Once established, I will announce this position on the NIDCD website. I encourage anyone with the interest, commitment, expertise, and experience in building a robust platform for addressing our challenges to apply.
- Action 2: I have partnered with NIH leadership and with NIDCD scientists and staff to ensure that our own workplace is diverse, respectful, and inclusive. We have established an NIDCD Diversity/Equity/Respect Working Group that includes representatives at every level of the institute (e.g., administrative staff, trainees, and scientific staff and faculty) and spans all NIDCD divisions. This internal diversity committee will collaborate with the NIH UNITE committees to explore and implement opportunities to address systemic racism and to foster an informed community that is welcoming to everyone.
- Action 3: At our council meeting, convened virtually on January 28‒29, 2021, the NIDCD Advisory Council Working Group on Diversity and Inclusiveness presented recommendations for expanding diversity and inclusion at every level of our scientific effort. I am enthusiastic about the thoughtful and creative initiatives outlined by the committee. Furthermore, we are looking at how best to increase participation of underrepresented minority populations in research studies in our mission areas.
We will work together with NIH leadership and our stakeholders to ensure that these initial steps broaden into sustained action. I’m honored to serve as director of the NIDCD during this time of profound reflection and opportunity.
I, and we, pledge to make the most of it.