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September 17, 2020
Statement on the Departure of Debra Chew
It is with deep appreciation for her contributions to NIH that I announce that Debra C. Chew, Esq., the Director of the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), will be leaving to join the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA). Debra joined NIH eight years ago and led the effort to re-engineer the former NIH Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management. In 2013, she launched EDI to be more responsive to customer needs. With her broad knowledge of the law, and her exquisite communication and interpersonal skills, Debra worked with her team to develop positive working relationships with the NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) and the many EDI stakeholders, consulting widely on tailored approaches to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion across the NIH.
Early in her tenure, Debra launched the Data Analytics Branch focused on providing accurate and reliable workforce demographic data – key to diversity analysis – to internal stakeholders. She also led the trans-NIH committee effort to standardize workforce categories for diversity. Beyond NIH, Debra has been leading an effort with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure that our workforce demographic data comports with the White House Office of Management and Budget standards.
Debra has advocated for all populations of the Special Emphasis Program. She has shifted the focus from solely conducting commemorative programs to conducting analysis on each population and working to eliminate barriers throughout the recruitment and employment life cycle to better improve equal employment opportunities for all these populations at the NIH. Through her advocacy for the Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) population at the NIH, Debra launched a Safe Zone Training to provide greater allyship and awareness of the issues and challenges facing our SGM population across the NIH.
Shortly after her arrival, Debra launched a new, centralized Reasonable Accommodation Program for the NIH. A capable team of Accessibility Consultants were recruited and now work closely with managers, supervisors, and employees to provide technical guidance for them to understand their responsibilities and rights in the process. Debra’s team drafted and finalized NIH Reasonable Accommodation procedures, which were approved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A relentless advocate for individuals with disabilities, Debra championed a change to the NIH mission statement, which formerly characterized having a disability as a “burden."
With respect to the civil rights function of EDI, Debra led the separation of the informal and formal complaints process, yielding greater neutrality and better compliance with regulatory requirements. Under her supervision, the EEO complaints program has become known for timeliness and quality of complaint processing. Educating the parties throughout the process has become a hallmark of EDI compliance operations to eliminate the anxiety and confusion about the EEO complaint process. Under Debra’s leadership, a trans-NIH committee was convened to develop and prepare a highly interactive Prevention of Sexual Harassment and NoFEAR training, ensuring compliance with NIH’s responsibility to train our workforce on these topics. HHS asked NIH to help lead the Language Access efforts across the Department based on EDI’s development of a strong Language Access Plan for the NIH and the provision of access to those who are Limited English Proficient.
Under Debra's leadership, EDI has received recognition from several federal agencies and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Debra has consulted for the EEOC and the Office of Personnel Management on the EDI portfolio of services and online presence. Through these efforts, Debra has helped to position NIH as an employer of choice for diverse candidates through these modern, innovative, online spaces.
I am very thankful to Debra for her extraordinary leadership. Her important contributions over the last eight years have helped transform NIH’s equity, diversity, and inclusion programs. She will be greatly missed, but her legacy will help lead NIH into the future. Debra will join FHFA next month to be the Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Fairness, where she will work with the FHFA Chairman in designing a new program focused on equity and fairness for FHFA employees. I wish her the very best in her new role.
I am pleased to announce that while we launch a nationwide search for Debra’s replacement, Treava Hopkins-Laboy will step in as the Acting Director of EDI. For the past eight years, Treava has served as the Deputy Director of EDI and has more than 30 years of experience with HHS.
Please join me in thanking Debra for her service to the NIH and in wishing both Debra and Treava all the best in their new assignments.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health