On October 1, 2020, I assumed the role of acting Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I am deeply honored to continue and expand upon the work of my predecessor, Hannah A. Valantine, MD. Dr. Valantine was profoundly committed to promoting equity and enhancing diversity throughout the biomedical research enterprise. SWD’s rapid growth in size and scope over the past six and a half years is owed, in no small part, to the work of Dr. Valantine. She will be dearly missed.
A Commitment to Diversity
Like Dr. Valantine, I strongly believe that a diverse workforce has the potential to spur scientific innovation, creativity, and productivity. I have been a long-standing champion of SWD’s mission, as evidenced by my 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. I also lead the Women of Color Committee of the Working Group on Women In Biomedical Careers, renowned for the Women of Color Research Network (WoCRn).
My Vision for SWD
As acting Chief Officer for SWD, I plan to continue our vital mission of promoting a diverse workforce. Under my leadership, I will continue the momentum of our Office’s staff, partners, and stakeholders.
One of my first acts as Chief Officer will be to enhance the communications of our Office. The rapid dissemination of accurate and timely information is critical to our mission. Through a combination of social media, blog posts, op-ed publications, and virtual conferences, SWD will lead the conversation about diversity in the biomedical workforce.
The ongoing conversation about health and other disparities in America is long overdue. To better reflect that conversation, I will direct our Office to update SWD’s Strategic Plan, our foundational document. The current iteration of this document has had a prominent role in our many outstanding accomplishments, including the Scientific Workforce Diversity toolkit, which provides evidence-based suggestions for promoting diversity at an institutional level. By revising our Strategic Plan, we can better reflect the changing landscape of the conversation surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the United States.
SWD’s size and scope expanded under the tenure of Dr. Valantine, and I plan to continue that growth by bolstering partnerships across NIH and with federal partners and institutions. The evidence-based approaches of SWD are too important and too valuable not to share. By broadening our partnerships, the Office will be in a better position to advance our strategic objectives, while providing new partners with valuable information about the importance of a diverse workforce.
Lastly, I will direct SWD to use the results of our COVID-19 Workforce Impact Survey to drive program and policy improvements to meet the needs of the scientific workforce. It is critical that we understand the unique stresses associated with COVID-19 on underrepresented groups, including the impact on aspects of work and family life. SWD will utilize the results of the Impact Survey to catalyze helpful strategies addressing inequities or problems in the NIH workforce.
As acting Chief Officer for SWD, I will strive every day to be a champion for scientific workforce diversity. My parting thought is that it is vital that we continue to strive for a diverse, inclusive workforce that allows individuals to contribute the breadth of their talents to help scientific organizations solve the world’s most critical issues. After all, great minds think differently.
Marie A. Bernard, M.D.