Dear NIH Family,
I want to respond personally to the troubling reports of violence perpetrated against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. We continue to live through unprecedented times, fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the regrettable polarization of our nation. A tragic symptom of this tension is the deplorable increase in acts of violence and intolerance towards AAPI communities. Witnessing acts of violence against AAPI individuals and communities, like the tragic shootings in Atlanta this week, is devastating and utterly unacceptable.
As leaders in our field, we at NIH pursue innovation in enhancing health, lengthening life, and reducing illness and disability. The speed of the development for the COVID-19 vaccine is a testament to the skill and dedication of the scientific community. But it should be noted that the immediate initiation of vaccine development 14 months ago was only made possible by the rapid public disclosure by Chinese researchers of the genetic sequence of the coronavirus. Science has always been, and will continue to be, a global effort, and we are all in this together.
I fully support the White House “Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States,” and denounce acts of discrimination, bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI individuals. I commit to working with NIH leadership to create the space and time for us to listen to each other, explore opportunities to support our colleagues, enhance workplace awareness, and to cultivate a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and productive work environment. The journey toward justice is not a fleeting idea, but a lifelong commitment to accountability.
Today, I reach out, not to just share in the frustration and distress that I feel, but to reaffirm my commitment to ensuring that every member of our NIH family, and especially those from the AAPI communities, are treated with respect and consideration. I want my AAPI brothers and sisters to know that NIH deeply recognizes and celebrates your valuable contributions to our society -- including the biomedical health research discoveries you have made at NIH, but extending well beyond that.
I am proud to work alongside my deeply committed AAPI colleagues who have not only dedicated their careers to bettering the lives of others, but have also served on the frontlines of this crisis as healthcare professionals, in supporting their families, communities, and networks. We know that racism is not limited to any one group. I will try to do my part to better understand the unique dynamics, needs, and challenges facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and I ask everyone at NIH do the same.
Wishing you peace, health, and safety.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
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