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May 24, 2022
Celebrating the Value of People with Transparency and Accountability
UNITE Co-Chairs’ Corner
“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
- James Baldwin
Memorial Day is around the corner. It is a day we set aside to honor and remember the sacrifices of those who have perished in military service. While it became a federal holiday in 1971, it was first observed in the years following the Civil War (www.history.com). For many, it also marks the unofficial start of summer, a time of abundance, leisure, and warmth. As the UNITE T committee, we are charged with transparency, communication, and accountability of all UNITE Initiative efforts to our internal and external stakeholders. From our view, the themes underlying Memorial Day—honor, memory, sacrifice, joy, and celebration—underlie our work. As stewards of tomorrow’s history, we feel a deep responsibility to share how the NIH is taking strides to End Structural Racism in biomedical research enterprise with UNITE. We also deliberately acknowledge the context of structural racism in this country and the lived experiences of our great predecessors and those currently doing the work.
To date, the T committee has developed a great deal of infrastructure to share UNITE’s work with the world. In close collaboration with the NIH Office of the Director’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison, we developed NIH’s Ending Structural Racism webpage, a user-intuitive, one-stop shop for high-level information on NIH’s efforts (including UNITE). We coordinated the launch of UNITE on this page and at the special Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) meeting in February 2021. If you are data driven like us, please explore the first version of our Data Dashboard. This resource provides certain at-a-glance racial and ethnic demographic data for NIH and those we fund and links to pages from the original data stewards for granular details. Our overall goal is to make it easier for interested users to find and examine these data. If you have any suggestions on additional types of data or other content for the Data Dashboard, you may email UNITEInitiative@nih.gov. At our discretion, we will consider and potentially implement those suggestions.
Additionally, if you’re an NIH staff member, please check out our Ending Structural Racism Intranet and Toolkit pages. These pages house information related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility at the NIH—from best practices, to data, to resources for communication. Please check in often, as we will use these platforms to convey and celebrate future accomplishments from UNITE and the Agency as a whole.
From Communication to Culture Change
Beyond making space for transparency and accountability, we are celebrating the broad diversity of people who ensure NIH meets its mission. Now that many NIH staff have returned to the worksite in some capacity, they will see a new splash of color through the windows and on the walls of NIH’s main campus. The Power of an Inclusive Workplace Recognition Project, the brainchild of pediatric neuro-oncologist and UNITE T Co-chair, Dr. Sadhana Jackson, highlights the importance of inclusion and the experiences that people of all backgrounds have walking through the hallowed halls of NIH. Historically at NIH and prestigious institutions of higher learning across the United States, employees, trainees, and students face “dude walls” or “white walls”—hallways lined with photographs of those (often white men) who have contributed to the foundation of these edifices. As Dr. Jackson notes in her recent OpEd in Stat, these walls impact everyone’s understanding of who is contributing meaningfully and can drive insidious self-doubt in those who aspire to shift scientific and clinical paradigms, yet identify differently from what is showcased on these walls. Dr. Jackson and the T committee saw a need to change this experience by sharing the faces of the broad set of staff at NIH and worked closely with an excellent team of medical artists to generate an award-winning campaign that is literally changing how we see ourselves.
While at work onsite, consider taking a moment to behold all the beautiful faces on the walls of buildings 1, 10, and 31 on the main campus of NIH. We hope you appreciate this new form of recognition of people of all identities and abilities that have contributed to NIH’s mission. For us, these powerful installations inspire our continued march toward equitable change.
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Authored by the UNITE T Committee Co-Chairs
This page last reviewed on May 24, 2022