My name is David Rice, I work for NIH and I Am HHS. For me, being deaf has been a blessing -- and it has made me who I am today.
My parents started suspecting something was wrong with my hearing when I was 2. By the time I was 4, my mom noticed that I wasn’t jumping at the sound of the ice cream truck, and it was then that I was officially diagnosed.
My mom said it was never clear why I lost my hearing, but the disease or diseases were progressive. I now have no hearing in my left ear and a little in my right ear, depending on the pitch; I rely on lip reading and the use of an interpreter.
Because my parents were fierce advocates for me and made sure I got the school support I needed, being deaf never stopped me from pursuing my dreams — whether it was playing high school sports or coming to work at the National Institutes of Health nearly eight years ago.
I grew up in the small Ohio town of Columbiana. I knew NIH was where I wanted to be when I got the opportunity to attend a weeklong summer program in Washington during high school. The theme that year was Science Discoveries in America and it made a big impact on me. Even as a teenager, I knew there was something special about NIH.
After high school, I returned to Washington to attend The Catholic University of America. Working in the library helped me pay for school, and I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology.
When I graduated, I was offered positions at several federal agencies but ultimately chose NIH, starting first at the National Eye Institute in 2009. Since then, I’ve moved to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and that’s where I am now.
My job title is management analyst, and I am responsible for a portfolio of programs and projects, including emergency management and risk and records management. But for me, my service at NIH really boils down to helping improve the lives of the American public.
I am a huge advocate for the Deaf Community, and a large part of my professional and personal time revolves around the Disability Community. I am president of Deaf in Government and chairperson of the Disability Engagement Committee at NIH, and am always looking to connect the community with mentors, offer career advice and spread the word about the abilities of the Disability Community, that we are not a burden, but an asset.
In fact, the word burden, led to one of my biggest accomplishments: changing the official NIH mission statement to make the disability community at NIH feel more welcomed and included.
The mission statement used to read in part "...reduce the burdens of illness and disability." I have never felt like a burden, and most disabled people don’t either. Dr. Francis Collins, the NIH director, agreed with me and the phrase “reduce the burdens of” was removed, lessening the stigma of being disabled. I felt that my small change made a big difference.
I am David Rice. I work at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, NIH, and I am HHS.
David is one of more than 79,000 people who make HHS run every day. You can share his story and see others on Twitter and Facebook using #IAmHHS.
Do you have a story idea for us? Do you want to submit a guest blog? If it's about equity, diversity, or inclusion, please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.