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Game Changer: Dr. Francis Collins

Game Changers

/gām/ /‘CHānjər/

noun
An individual, group, or organization that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.

Game Changers are institution builders. They forge partnerships to revolutionize organizational culture and procedure. They encourage decision makers to go beyond the “strategic” towards the “tactical." They cultivate and harness the creative ideas that inspire new paradigms throughout the Agency, fueling innovation and advancing its mission. They uphold equity, diversity, and inclusion are true business imperatives that make up our organizational fabric and operationalize these concepts as part of their overall leadership strategy.

game

/gām/

noun

  • a type of activity or business
  • an organization’s (or person’s) standard or method of play
  • a mode of performance

changer

/‘CHānjər/

verb

  • one who makes something different
  • one who alters the terms or transforms them entirely
  • one who arrives (or makes others arrive) at a fresh phase; become new
Do you know a game changer?
Dr. Francis Collins standing at a podium speaking at an event.

Photo Credit: Tom Cogill.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) has selected the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director, Dr. Francis Collins for being a catalyst for change by challenging platforms that disadvantage women, while continuing his commitment to the success of the NIH. Dr. Collins is an example of how men can advocate for women’s rights, contribute to changing the culture, and help prevent gender discrimination. By recognizing that men have a place of privilege, they can use their power to shift cultures that negatively affect women.

In February of 2019, Dr. Collins directed the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group to develop strategies and system-wide changes to culture and climate, for the prevention of harassment and gender discrimination. Dr. Collins created the working group to report to ACD after several high-profile sexual harassment cases involving federally funded investigators. Those directives included:

  • Assessing the current state of sexual harassment at NIH-funded organizations.
  • Advising on oversight that will encourage a reduction in, and prevention of, sexual harassment Propose actions and policies that would promote a safe and inclusive culture at NIH-supported research conferences.
  • Suggesting systemwide changes to culture and climate to prevent harassment and gender discrimination
  • Developing strategies for encouraging research on anti-harassment policies, procedures, and training
Dr. Francis Collins takes audience questions at the December 2018 town hall meeting, along with panelists (from l) Dr. Carrie Wolinetz, Dr. Hannah Valantine, Julie Berko and Dr. Kelly Ten Hagen, photo by Chia-Chi Charlie Chang.
Dr. Francis Collins takes audience questions at the December 2018 town hall meeting, along with panelists (from l) Dr. Carrie Wolinetz, Dr. Hannah Valantine, Julie Berko and Dr. Kelly Ten Hagen, photo by Chia-Chi Charlie Chang.

Another active approach of the inclusion of women is when Dr. Collins spoke out against all-male panels. For many decades, the majority of prominent scientific speakers and panelists have been men. In his NIH message titled "Time to End the Manel Tradition," he states that he will decline invitations to speak at panels and conferences that do not include enough women in prominent speaking roles. "Starting now," he said, "when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities. If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part. I challenge other scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to do the same."

EDI commends Dr. Collins for his stance on gender equality. "It is not enough to give lip service to equality; leaders must demonstrate their commitment through their actions," Dr. Collins says. Leaders like Dr. Collins are the reason NIH is a great place to work. Valuing differences and seeking fairness is what makes Dr. Collins an invaluable advocate for diversity and inclusion.

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 edi.stories@nih.gov.

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