At the Scientific Workforce Diversity Office (SWD), our mission has always been driven by the fundamental belief that a diverse workforce has the potential to spur scientific innovation, creativity, and productivity. Under my leadership, our work over the last six and a half years has focused on strategies to promote equity and enhance diversity throughout the biomedical research enterprise. SWD has grown rapidly in size and scope, and I have great faith in our continued ability to develop, implement, and evaluate evidence-based approaches that truly benefit the NIH workforce and beyond.
Yesterday, I retired from NIH as the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity. While this may be goodbye to the NIH and my stellar colleagues, I must emphasize that this is not the end of our work—in fact, although much has been accomplished towards our goals, there is still much to be done.
Since 2014, our office has advocated for, developed, and implemented programs to address the various disparities present in the biomedical workforce, guided by the pillars of diversity enumerated in our inaugural Strategic Plan. For example, our Scientific Workforce Diversity toolkit provides evidence-based suggestions for promoting diversity at an institutional level. We have spearheaded events such as the Advancing Diversity Program Conference, which compiles successful models and best practices for enhancing workforce diversity and inclusion, as well as the Future Research Leaders Conference, a career-development opportunity for talented early-career biomedical and behavioral scientists from diverse backgrounds. I am proud to observe the successes of the Distinguished Scholars Program and, later, the FIRST program, which aim to enhance the diversity of the NIH Intramural Research Program and NIH-funded institutions through a cohort model approach. These milestones will provide a strong foundation as our office continues its crucial work throughout 2020 and beyond.
These accomplishments would not have been possible without the dedication and grit of our Office’s staff, partners, and stakeholders, who continue to work tirelessly to advance our mission, while maintaining focus on diversity driven by data. In particular, I want to express my thanks to our SWD team, including my senior advisor, Dr. Charlene Le Fauve. Our team serves as a model for including a diversity of perspectives to create something transformative and lasting.
SWD has made significant progress in enhancing diversity within the biomedical workforce since my appointment in 2014. As I pass the mantle to Marie A. Bernard, M.D., who will serve as acting Chief Officer while the NIH searches for a permanent Chief Officer, I have no doubt that she will successfully lead the office in its next phase. Dr. Bernard, Deputy Director of the NIH National Institute on Aging, has been a fervent and long-standing champion of our scientific workforce diversity mission. She led a plethora of activities aimed at furthering workforce diversity, including serving as a founding member of both the NIH Steering Committee Diversity Working Group and NIH Equity Committee, and co-chairing the NIH Inclusion Governance Committee, which oversees inclusion in clinical research. Dr. Bernard also leads the Women of Color Committee of the Working Group on Women In Biomedical Careers, renowned for the Women of Color Research Network (WoCRn). It is my hope that Dr. Bernard’s unique perspective on the needs of diverse scientists in our workforce will serve as a guiding light for our Office and its partners as NIH conducts a nationwide search for my successor.
Over the past six and a half years, my passion for enhancing and supporting scientific workforce diversity has never wavered. My NIH legacy is also my Parting Wisdom to you, our Office’s friends and partners. We must establish innovative, evidence-based thinking to transform diversity from a problem into an opportunity, which will ensure that we recruit, retain, and advance the most talented scientists from the uniquely diverse intellectual capital that is emblematic of our nation.
Thank you for all of your support and well wishes in my retirement from NIH. Never doubt that I will continue to be a champion for scientific workforce diversity as a driver of innovative strategies to eradicate diseases and address health challenges faced by our nation and, indeed, our world.
Hannah Valantine, MD.