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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Don Ralbovsky
NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison
(301) 496-5787

NIH Wins 2003 Diversity Leadership Award

Bethesda, Maryland – National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., today receives a CEO Leadership Award from Diversity Best Practices. The Award is in recognition of NIH’s efforts to ensure a diverse medical research workforce. Zerhouni is one of 10 CEOs to be honored at today’s 2003 Diversity and Women Leadership Summit. The NIH is the only award recipient representing the Federal government.

“I am fully committed to ensuring that NIH maintains its position as the premier biomedical research institution in the country for people of all backgrounds,” said Zerhouni. “If we are to uphold our reputation for excellence, each and every employee must work together to make NIH the employer of choice for the best talent in the field.”

Diversity Best Practices CEO Leadership Awards recognize business leaders across the country who have proven themselves – and their companies – to be champions for creating inclusive, respectful and diverse organizational cultures.

Of NIH’s nearly 18,000 employees, approximately 35 percent represent ethnic minorities in the U.S., including nearly 20 percent African Americans, more than 12 percent Asian/Pacific Islander Americans and more than 3 percent Hispanic Americans. Additionally, the NIH encompasses more than 1,700 Visiting Fellows representing countries across the globe – adding to the diverse group of cultures and nationalities contributing to the organization’s mission of uncovering new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone.

Since being named NIH director in 2002, the Algerian-born Zerhouni has made outreach to diverse communities a cornerstone of his leadership. He has increased efforts to recruit minority staff members, supported educational scholarship programs at learning institutions with historically diverse student bodies and increased the agency’s commitment to better understand and communicate about racial disparities in health care.

“NIH respects the diversity an individual brings to the workplace and the scientific process,” said Zerhouni. “We need to continue to train, recruit and retain the best talent in biomedical research because, in the final analysis, it is always the creative spark of the unique individual that leads to new knowledge and real progress, wherever that individual comes from.”

Managing diversity first became an integral aspect of the NIH mission in 1995, when a multi-dimensional initiative was introduced at a Diversity Congress, a gathering of 115 delegates representing NIH’s institutes, centers and several employee affinity groups. The NIH Workplace Diversity Initiative (WDI) was developed as an outcome of the Congress and continues to receive outside recognition, as well as internal support from NIH leadership.

NIH’s WDI assists managers in learning how to capitalize on employees’ similarities and differences to promote fairness, quality work and efficiency and how to boost employee morale through a culture of respect. Programs include a variety of internships aimed at growing the pool of minority students interested in pursuing a career in biomedical research, including the Undergraduate Scholarship Program for exceptional students from disadvantaged or underprivileged backgrounds.

The NIH Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM) – part of the Office of the Director – is the lead group for NIH-wide policy formulation, implementation, coordination and management of the equal opportunity, civil rights, affirmative employment and workplace diversity programs.

“We are pleased to count Dr. Zerhouni among this year’s honorees,” said Edie Fraser, president of Diversity Best Practices, the organization that spearheads the annual awards in conjunction with the annual leadership summit jointly sponsored by the Business Women’s Network. “His leadership – and that of other senior staff of the NIH – serves as a model not only for other government agencies and organizations, but for the corporate, for-profit sector as well.”

The National Institutes of Health, which is comprised of 27 institutes and centers, is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. More information about the NIH can be found at its Web site: www.nih.gov.

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