Marie A. Bernard, M.D., is Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She assumed this role in June 2021 after serving as Acting COSWD since October 2020. She follows the visionary leadership of Hannah A. Valantine, M.D., who retired from this position on Sept. 30, 2020. Dr. Bernard was Deputy Director of the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) from 2008–2021 and has been involved in a broad variety of NIH activities to further diversity. These include serving as a founding member of both the Diversity Working Group and NIH Equity Committee, and co-chairing the NIH Inclusion Governance Committee, which oversees inclusion in clinical research by sex/gender, race/ethnicity, and age. She leads the Women of Color Committee of the Working Group on Women In Biomedical Careers, renowned for the Women of Color Research Network (WoCRn), and for successful nominations of women of color scientists to the NIH Wednesday Afternoon Lecture series. Dr. Bernard has been recognized with multiple awards for her leadership, including the 2020 NIH Directors Award for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
Within NIA, she led a variety of diversity and training initiatives, most notably the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework, developed in collaboration with NIA National Advisory Council members, including Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., now director of the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The framework guides NIA research in this area and informed the development of NIMHD’s health disparities research framework. Dr. Bernard provided direction and supervision to the NIA Office of Special Populations, which leads health disparities research and training for underrepresented scientists within NIA. Examples of programs that have been established or enhanced under her leadership include the NIA MSTEM and the Butler-Williams Scholars programs.
Until October 2008, she was the endowed professor and founding chair of the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, and Associate Chief of Staff for Geriatrics and Extended Care at the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She has held numerous national leadership roles, including serving on the National Institute on Aging National Advisory Committee (NACA). As a NACA member, she chaired the Task Force on Minority Aging Research. In that role, she led an evaluation of the impact of the NIA strategic plan for minority aging research and underrepresented researcher recruitment and retention.
Dr. Bernard also served on a number of other national committees, including as chair of the Clinical Medicine Section of the Gerontological Society of America, chair of the Department of Veterans Affairs National Research Advisory Committee, board member of the American Geriatrics Society, president of the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education, and president of the Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs. She has lectured and published widely in her area of research, nutrition and function in older populations, particularly underrepresented minority populations.
She received her undergraduate education at Bryn Mawr College and her MD from University of Pennsylvania. She trained in internal medicine at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, where she also served as chief resident. She has received additional training through the Association of American Medical Colleges Health Services Research Institute, the Geriatric Education Center of Pennsylvania, and the Wharton School Executive Development program.
The SWD Strategic Plan and the Working Group on Diversity and the Biomedical Research Workforce
In August 2011, the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) convened the Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce (WGDBRW) to make recommendations on ways to enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. Since June 2012, when their recommendations were shared, NIH has been focused on responding to their specific calls to action. The SWD Strategic Plan addresses many of the recommendations of the Working group.