Valuing and Supporting Diversity in the Pediatric Research Community

Jun 14 2016

Valuing and Supporting Diversity in the Pediatric Research Community

CSO_PERSPECTIVES_2016_2 By Bryan A. Wolf, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Director of the Research Institute

Diversity has long been a key driver of achievement at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, particularly when it comes to innovation and performing more accurate and inclusive research. Organizations that have more diverse workforces are more successful — they make better decisions, have more effective teams, and are better positioned to meet the needs of the populations they serve who come from many different cultures and countries, and with varied backgrounds, experiences, and expectations.

The importance of diversity was underscored by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) working group, which released a draft report four years ago on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce. The report reflected not only the importance of diversity within the biomedical science community, but NIH's commitment to cultivating it. Coming out of the report were recommendations to improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities, people with disabilities, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds across the full range of careers in biomedical research.

In light of the report, we looked our responsibility as one of the world’s leading pediatric hospitals and research institutes to bolster our organization's efforts and promote diversity. A team led by our Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, with support and feedback from the faculty-led Research Trainee Advisory Committee (RTAC), explored the state of diversity among research trainees at CHOP and developed recommendations on how we could best cultivate a diverse trainee workforce. As a result of these efforts, the Research Institute has developed new community partnerships, established programs to strengthen a pipeline of future scholars, and implemented the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for Academic Diversity in partnership with Penn.

Diversity

An important element of celebrating diversity is visibility and clear communication about our commitment to such inclusiveness as a core value. To that end, I invite you to explore the Diversity and Inclusion section of the Research Institute’s web site. This newly expanded and centralized resource captures the variety of ways that CHOP and the Research Institute continue to nurture a diverse community based on a culture of inclusion. There you will find information detailing our many efforts that focus on diversity health initiatives, supportive scientific training programs, and outreach to the diverse community that we serve in Philadelphia and beyond.

I also invite you to review some of the stories shared here on Cornerstone in the past that highlight some of these programs, such as the CHOP Research Institute Summer Scholars Program (CRISSP), which expanded last year to train our undergraduate student research mentees to serve in mentoring roles themselves, primarily supporting under-represented minority high school students. Also peruse stories about research efforts that support the unique needs of diverse and underserved communities, such as gender-nonconforming or gender variant youth, lower income and racial and ethnic minority communities at elevated risk of obesity-related health problems, and studies identifying racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, to name just a few. And note that many other stories feature the intellectual and scientific achievements of colleagues who bring personal backgrounds that enhance the diversity of our research community.

We value diversity within our research community, and it is undoubtedly part what makes us successful. Individual differences in race, ethnicity, genetic makeup, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and socioeconomic status are an integral part of what makes us great.

If you are involved with a research group at CHOP contributing to diversity and would like your work reflected on the Diversity and Inclusion section of the web site, or if you have a story or news about a diversity-related project that may be of interest on the Cornerstone blog or in Bench to Bedside, I encourage you to contact Jennifer Long in Research Communications with your idea.