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The Time is Now’ to End Racial Inequities in Medical Research

Updated: May 3, 2022

Author: Jeannie Baumann

Updated: April 12, 2022, 2:29 PM

Quashing decades of structural racism in the biomedical research space will require running a marathon, not a sprint. But it’s a race Monica Webb Hooper and Marie Bernard say they plan to help win.

“The change may be incremental, but we already are starting to see some change, even in the sense that the conversations that have never happened before are happening,” Webb Hooper, the deputy director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, said in a recent interview.

“That’s the first step of what will be a long process that we will have to stay persistent on.”

The National Institutes of Health established the UNITE initiative in February 2021 to identify and end structural racism within the biomedical research enterprise, both within the NIH and the universities and research institutions it funds. It’s a high-level initiative whose co-chairs must report updates to the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director, which is one of the most influential advisory panels at the agency.

While the NIH has policies dating back nearly three decades to increase the diverse representation in both the research and the scientists who conduct it, it’s the first time the agency has used the power of its $45 billion purse to tackle structural racism head on.

“The sun and the moon and the stars are aligned,” said Bernard, one of the UNITE co-chairs as well as the NIH’s chief officer for scientific workforce diversity.


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