Embracing Authenticity: Celebrating 25 Years of Diversity & Inclusion

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Spring 2020 marks a quarter century of the Endocrine Society’s diversity initiatives. To mark this momentous occasion, Endocrine News spoke with members whose careers have been enhanced by their involvement in the Society’s diversity program.

 

As the Endocrine Society’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CoDI) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, past and current members are reflecting on the committee’s impact on the diversification of the specialty.

Endocrine News caught up with past chair Rocio Pereira, MD, of Denver Health, and current members: Carlos Arguello, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Bryan Wilson, PhD, of Merck Research Laboratories; and Marina Fernandez, PhD, of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) in Argentina to discuss how CoDI has changed the minds and lives of many across the globe.

EN: In what ways do you think diversity and inclusion are important to the Society’s future and the future of endocrinology?

Rocio Pereira: To continue advancing its mission to improve health worldwide and serving its global membership, the Society will need to maintain its focus on diversity and inclusion efforts, encourage increased representation of under-represented minorities in leadership, and continue work addressing health disparities. Diversity and inclusion require representation of individuals from different backgrounds and with different viewpoints in all aspects of the Society’s work.

Carlos Arguello: I believe the strength of an organization such as the Endocrine Society resides in the active involvement of its members. The constituency of the Society is quite diverse and each of us has something to offer, to contribute. The practice of medicine has evolved over time and our specialty is not exempt from these changes. Many challenges lie ahead. The Society is positioned to lead the path to shape the future of our discipline. As an organization, the Society’s future will continue to be bright as long as it continues to engage its diverse constituency and make them feel how valuable they are for the life of our organization.

Bryan Wilson: Diversity and inclusion within the Society establishes a safe space for mutual understanding and getting to know others. Everyone has unique experiences and plays a role in cultivating success on an individual and society level. Diversity and inclusion widen the lens through which we view ourselves and others, allowing us to develop in new ways.

Marina Fernandez: As a member of the international community, a basic scientist and a Latin American, I think it is crucial to bring all the different voices and perspectives to the table when we talk about the Endocrine Society, endocrinology, and science in general. It is important to teach others about how diverse teams bring different perspectives and how to interact respecting these differences.

Diversity and inclusion require representation of individuals from different backgrounds and with different viewpoints in all aspects of the Society’s work. – Rocio Pereira, MD, Denver Health, Denver, Colo.

 

 

EN:  What has been the impact of the Society’s diversity and inclusion efforts on your professional and personal life?

RP: Participating in the Society’s diversity and inclusion efforts has given me the opportunity to develop as a leader, set up collaborations, and form friendships.

CA: Our life is enriched by any new experience from which we all should learn and grow. To collaborate with incredible people, to feel their passion and commitment, to make our organization more inclusive was invigorating and refreshing. I will continue to carry on the efforts, to foster diversity and inclusion in any opportunity I encounter.

BW: The Society’s diversity and inclusion efforts created a culture that celebrated my uniqueness as a scientist and professional. Given my very unique career path, it provided the support I needed to fully blossom, while embracing my authenticity.

As an organization, the Society’s future will continue to be bright as long as it continues to engage its diverse constituency and make them feel how valuable they are for the life of our organization. – Carlos Arguello, MD, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Ala.

 

MF: My first encounter with the Endocrine Society was in 2008, when I was selected as a participant of the International Endocrine Scholars Program. This program helped me get my postdoctoral position with Dr. Nicholas Webster at University of California San Diego, and I’ve been a part of the Society ever since. Another activity sponsored by the Society that I like a lot is the Mentoring and Poster Reception [at ENDO] where trainees can talk with mentors about different topics like working abroad, work-life balance, opportunities after graduation, and many others. I was able to participate in this activity as a mentor and poster judge, giving me the opportunity to interact with many other scientists from US and around the world. Also, a very exciting event held at ENDO 2019 was the LGBTQ+ and allies’ reception that was very popular, and I hope it will become a regular activity at future ENDO conferences.

The Society’s diversity and inclusion efforts created a culture that celebrated my uniqueness as a scientist and professional. Given my very unique career path, it provided the support I needed to fully blossom, while embracing my authenticity. – Bryan Wilson, PhD, MBA, Regional Medical Scientific Director for cardiovascular sciences, Merck Research Laboratories, New Orleans, La.

EN: Has your view of diversity and inclusion changed over time as a result of your involvement in the D&I committee and programs?

RP: When I joined the Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) in 2005, the focus was on increasing ethnic/racial diversity in endocrinology and within the Society by implementing programs for groups that were underrepresented in medicine in the US (black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American). During my tenure as chair of the MAC, and under the leadership of former Society President Janet Hall, the committee launched an effort to increase awareness of endocrine disparities. At the end of my time as chair, the committee transitioned to the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, broadening its scope to include support for LGBTQ members and research to address health disparities related to sexual orientation or gender. While we have come a long way from where we started when MAC was formed 25 years ago, we still have a long way to go to get to where the make-up of the clinical endocrine workforce is reflective that of patients with endocrine disease, or to making true progress to eliminating health disparities.

CA: To me, diversity is a cultural notion not limited to race, ethnicity, or gender. Given my background, my view of diversity and inclusion has not really changed. My involvement in the Committee has reaffirmed my belief that diversity makes us strong and inclusion gives us power.

Before, it was considered that science belonged to a particular group of people. Nowadays, it is becoming clearer that the more diverse the team, the more interesting the work the team can do. – Marina Fernandez, PhD, National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

 

EN: How does working with leadership from diverse backgrounds bring value to the Society?

RP: Working with leadership from diverse backgrounds makes the Endocrine Society stronger and enables it to address the needs of its diverse membership.

CA: Although each of us have our own “thoughts and beliefs,” it has been invaluable to experience how working together, and despite our perceived “differences” and biases, we can amalgamate ways and craft ideas toward common goals to strengthen the value of our organization.

BW: Working with leadership from diverse backgrounds brings value because it highlights the importance of having unique perspectives. More importantly, it creates a heightened sense of responsibility to create a culture that celebrates these differences.

MF: It gives different perspectives, as our way of seeing the world is immersed in our mental models. Before, it was considered that science belonged to a particular group of people. Nowadays, it is becoming clearer that the more diverse the team, the more interesting the work the team can do.

—Fauntleroy-Shaw is a freelance writer based in Carmel, Ind. She is a regular contributor to Endocrine News.

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