Breaking Barriers


We had the opportunity in class to listen to Dr. Monica Feliu-Mojer (@moefeliu). It was inspiring to hear about her journey as a strong woman of color in STEM. As we move higher in our careers, it is important to have representation and Dr. Feliu-Mojer does just that. She enlightened us through her work with iBiology's Background to Breakthrough, highlighting Dr. Esteban Burchard, a researcher at UCSF who advocates for diversity and inclusion within scientific research. She showcased three separate videos, informing us and the general public about why diversity and inclusion matters for the future generations of scientists and the naturally curious.

Who’s Included?

Reviewed by Andrea Morales

Overview:

Scientific exploration has been historically limited to people of European descent, therefore they have received the spotlight. With this history, it is clear that the scientific advances were Eurocentric. Currently, the field is now realizing the benefits of enriching the discipline with people who come from different backgrounds. Monica Feliu Mojer’s video covers the importance of diversifying the academic scientists and research. We all come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives. When diverse people evaluate the same problem, naturally, a diverse spectrum of solutions. This is validated in the literature, as diverse groups have been proven to be more effective at solving a problem.

Thoughts:

Dr. Esteban Burchard’s background highly resonated with me, as a minority scientist. Underrepresented minority scientist struggle to persist in the field because we are faced with many barriers like stereotype threat and implicit bias. In the video, Dr. Burchard explains how the faculty mentors in his early career, did not believe he had the cultural background to apply to a program. Take a quick minute to imagine having your mentor, the person devoted to helping you, not believing in you, solely due to your culture. If that mentor knew what Dr. Burchard was achieving today, I think they would eat their words. Moments like these remind me how necessary it is to have diversity among scientist, so the representation diminishes this stereotype. Increasing diversity will only help more underrepresented students succeed, as they will see themselves reflected in the faculty. Seeing yourself and your culture being represented sends a message to minorities to keep pursuing to reach our educational goals despite what barriers may be faced. This video did a fantastic job at highlighting the story of an underrepresented minority student who fought through the barriers and succeeded. Si Se Puede!

Which Box Do I Check?

Review by Minerva Orellana

Overview:

Human biology has been very interrelated with race and genetic ancestry. Now that we are progressing in treatments, it is necessary to understand genetic ancestry. Some ethnicities experience different health issues due to socioeconomic statuses. Race will never be removed from medicine; it is needed for as reference populations. There is currently an archaic race categorization: American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, black, and white. However, there are two ethnicity groups, Latinx or Hispanic, which doesn’t fully fit in any of the racial groups. How are researchers and doctors supposed to treat patients who are mixed?

Dr. Burchard had one such case when he was a pulmonary physician at UCSF. He had a patient who was half white and half black. However, if Dr. Burchard marked the patient as black, the patient wouldn’t have qualified for disability benefits. So Dr. Burchard, marked the patient as white and the patient received his benefits.

Thoughts:

This video was something I was dealing with. I was applying to PhD programs and I had to identify my race. My ethnicity is Latina that is how I identify myself. I didn’t want to choose any of the race categorizations. I don’t identify as any of them, but as a Latina it is suggested that my race is white. However, I don’t feel comfortable marking white so I end up marking other. I understand the need for knowing race and genetic ancestry given that different populations respond differently to medications. As mentioned by Dr. Burchard, a one size fits all approach can’t be applied. This follows what I want to do with my PhD, I want to be more inclusive of people of color (POC) in studies.The root of the problem is that there is a lack of POC researchers to identify these issues. However, times are becoming more progressive and we will be able to accomplish a more diverse study population.

An Inclusive Future

Review by Adrienne Le

Overview:

Dr. Esteban Burchard is a professor and researcher at UCSF that has been advocating for diversity and inclusion in his research as well as outside of the lab. As an SF native, Dr. Burchard talks about the different cultural influences that has benefited his growth as a person and as a scientist. Throughout his progression in his career, he has mentioned that a lot of research in science and medicine is lacking the diversity necessary to engage the general public. This is something that needs to change to help further the advancement of medicine and science for all, especially for underrepresented groups.

Thoughts:

From this video, I felt a connection with Dr. Burchard when he mentioned how important the plethora of cultural influences that he experienced during his lifetime helped him evolve into the scientist and individual he is today. This statement resonated with me as I have also found that my community comprised of a multitude of cultures and similar upbringings has allowed me to grow as an individual as well as a scientist. I strive to use my platform as an early career scientist to promote diversity and inclusivity between all fields of STEM. I found that Dr. Burchard is someone that I aspire to be because as I move higher up in my careers and profession. I believe it is imperative to understand that scientists with diverse backgrounds are able to change the way we can approach different questions. By including people of color in science we’ll be able to advance the scientific field where we can enforce that anyone can be a scientist, no matter the ethnicity and socioeconomic background.

Click Here to watch full video!