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Home > Global Health Matters May/Jun 2020 > Opinion: Together, we must work to end racism and promote equality through global health research and training Print

Together, we must work to end racism and promote equality through global health research and training: Opinion by Fogarty Director Dr Roger I Glass

May / June 2020 | Volume 19, Number 3

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1961

We have seen painful reminders in the past few weeks that the fight against racism and the struggle for equality are far from over, either here at home or in many other parts of the world. We must use this time of heightened awareness to consider how to make meaningful progress and we must not stop until all people have equal rights, social justice and access to medical care.

We at Fogarty condemn racism and bigotry in all its forms and remain committed to our mission to work toward achieving equity for all the world’s people. The continuing issues of social justice, the importance of diversity, alongside the racism and police brutality that persist in our society have again come to the fore and been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted minorities and vulnerable groups far more than others.

This is a time for all of us to reflect on what more we can do to address these continuing problems, to determine how we can contribute to meaningful solutions, individually and through our collective efforts, so that one day all people will live in a just and equitable world. We must channel our outrage, grief and frustration into positive change.

At NIH, I was encouraged to see our director Dr. Francis S. Collins issue a statement calling on our community to foster a culture of inclusion, equity and respect for one another, including working to enhance and nurture the diversity of our workforce and fighting to end health disparities. As he sagely noted, our different perspectives, backgrounds and cultures are what fuel our creativity and drive innovation.

The NIH leadership is also continuing its efforts to end sexual harassment, including closing loopholes that had allowed some grantees to escape repercussions for their egregious actions by changing institutions.

We know there is much more to be done before there is truly a level playing field in science but we are making progress. Because some of our grantee institutions in low-resource settings do not have regulations and processes in place to deal with harassment or bullying, we are making some resources available for that purpose.

For us at Fogarty, we will not rest until all scientists are able to fully participate in biomedical research as equal partners and all the world’s people are equal beneficiaries of research discoveries. This has been the overarching principle that has guided the Fogarty International Center and its staff for more than 50 years. It has never resonated more than today.

I call on you, our partners in these endeavors, to join us in our quest for peace, equality and social justice. This is a time when we must band together, to help each other, to repair and remake our society for the next generation, even as we address the physical and economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot, we must not, fail.

We have indeed seen that progress is not automatic or inevitable. It falls on all of us to shoulder the burden together, so that real and enduring progress can be achieved.

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