I am pleased to nominate Dr. Ofelia A. Olivero as an NIH Game Changer, in recognition for her leadership and commitment to furthering NIH’s equity diversity and inclusion efforts. Dr. Olivero is widely respected for her support of equal opportunities and for conveying the importance of mentoring across cultural and gender backgrounds. Dr. Olivero’s support to NIH’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) has resulted in numerous training fellows gaining access to NIH programs, most of them from underrepresented groups. A list of more than 35 program participants, all directly hired and mentored by her is a remarkable accomplishment. Most of her students are now either Ph.D. and/or M.D. candidates in training, and others are successful professionals who are appreciative of the training and mentorship they received in her laboratory. In 2016, Dr. Olivero became the Chief of Intramural Diversity Workforce Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where she now leads her institute efforts of creating new opportunities to enhance diversity recruiting and retention, increase partnerships, and generate diversity awareness.
Dr. Olivero’s has become NIH’s shining star on mentoring. Her successes have transcended beyond the NIH, where many organizations have reached out to her to obtain guidance about the important value of scientific mentoring. She has been out to local high schools where many students and teachers have learned about her work, and considered her a role model to women, minorities, and others. She has participated as guest lecturer and/or panelist at more than 12 educational institutions throughout the U.S. Internationally, she has also presented her work on scientific mentoring and diversity in Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil. Her talks and discussions are geared towards empowering women and minorities to succeed in science and for leaders, useful advise on how to embrace and leverage diversity to advance science. Her philosophy is that if she can walk away from a lecture having touched just one individual, that person will become empowered and in turn help others grow. Her passion for mentoring inspired her to write a book: Interdisciplinary Mentoring in Science: Strategies for Success (Elsevier). In her book, she describes what successful mentoring is, what it is not, and how these important concepts relate to scientists today. Her noteworthy achievements prove that scientists at the NIH can flourish in their scientific work, while supporting and inspiring others to succeed.
Besides her success in mentoring, it would be important also to highlight Dr. Olivero’s remarkable record of supporting equal employment opportunity at the NIH. You find her constantly engaged in assisting the NIH Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), the Office of Human Resources (OHR), the Chief Office for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD), and the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education leading activities, helping leaders understand that diversity in biomedical science is an important asset. She has been an active member of the NIH SACNAS Chapter, the NIH and HHS Hispanic Employee Organization (HEO), and a long-standing member of the American Association for Cancer Research, where she participates in their minority and women in cancer research special groups. For three years, she was engaged as an active member and advisor to the NIH Hispanic Employment Committee (HEC) where she advocated for equity, diversity and inclusion and helped lead numerous activities to attract Hispanics and Latinos in science to the NIH. An advocate of equal rights, she has stood up for fairness, with firm recommendations at various diversity and inclusion panels. As a member of the NIH OHR Scientific Minority Recruitment Forum (SMRF), she has supported their recruitment activities meeting and conveying the excitement of science with students from underrepresented backgrounds in conferences and special events. What is also remarkable about Dr. Olivero is that she has been engaged in these activities while fulfilling her primary responsibilities as a laboratory scientist. At the present, she is an active member of the NIH Hispanic and Latino Committee (HLEC) sponsored by NIH EDI, and a trusted advisor at various COSWD scientific recruitment and careers subcommittees. She is currently involved with the NIH Hispanic Research Special Interest Group, where she is helping them establish a new mentoring venue for the NIH.
Leaders like Dr. Olivero are the ones that make the NIH a great place to work and learn. She has been without a doubt an invaluable EDI diversity and inclusion collaborator and a valuable institutional game changer. Her satisfaction exemplified by her pursuit of fairness, valuing differences, leveraging the talents of everyone, doing good for humanity, and passion for her work in science. Dr. Olivero’s successful career trajectory in biomedical science at NCI is a great example of how leaders can help cultivate a culture of inclusion where diverse talent is leveraged to advance health discovery.