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A Message from the Acting EDI Director

Shelma Little

The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) is pleased to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month. I invite you to join me as we explore a very timely topic and learn more about this year’s theme, We Are Not a Monolith. AA and NHPIs in the United States are one of the fastest-growing populations,1and the storied history and accomplishments of our colleagues and friends is powerful in shaping our continued pursuit of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The leadership and influence of the AA and NHPI community permeates all aspects of our lives. We see this in the leadership of Dr. Ashish Jha who serves as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. We have all been impacted by the coronavirus and have relied on a coordinated response from our government. This is also demonstrated in the service of Mazie Hirono and Tammy Duckworth who serve in the U.S. Senate making laws for our country. In addition to science and government, we are also greatly influenced by the leadership of AA and NHPIs in business and the arts. This is evidenced by the creativity of Eric Yuan the founder of Zoom. Zoom became a lifeline during the pandemic helping us keep in touch with our family members and friends when it wasn’t safe to visit, and in many cases enabling us to continue working seamlessly. The talent and artistry of Olivia Rodrigo has taken popular culture by storm as evidenced by the recent receipt of multiple Grammy awards.

Since 2020, we have seen a spike in violence against AA and NHPIs stemming from anti-Asian intolerance and the rise in COVID-19 cases in the United States.2 However, racial violence against these communities began long ago,3 and it was not until the civil rights movement of the 1960s that the term Asian American was coined.4 From that time, we began to see advocacy and racial justice for AA and NHPIs begin to take shape. Yet, for years, much of this history has not been taught in any school curricula. As we look at how to support our AA and NHPI colleagues, we are thrilled that states such as Illinois and New Jersey are now mandating Asian American history as part of their public-school curricula, and other states are demanding similar requirements through their state legislatures.5 Education is an effective tool to combat racism, and through this education we can lift the voices of oppressed communities and begin to dismantle the model minority myth, xenophobia, and other ways that institutional privilege manifests in society.

Throughout May, you can expect to find several events that celebrate and honor the AA and NHPI community; one of which is the 2nd Annual Vivek Murthy Lecture to be held on May 11, 2022, hosted by our colleagues in the NIH Chapter of the Federal Asian Pacific American Organization (NIH FAPAC). In this virtual conversation, current U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, will recognize Michelle Wu, Mayor of Boston, for her leadership in addressing racism and mental health stigma among the AA and NHPI community. Bookmark the landing page to ensure you are up to speed on all AA and NHPI activities and events this month.

While you visit our website, you’ll find resources, information, and a video of first-person accounts on how stereotypes and biases about the AA and NHPI community have played out in the daily lives of our own NIH AA and NHPI colleagues and friends. I just watched the video and am so grateful to our colleagues who have shared their experiences so that I can be a better ally. I encourage you to watch.

Join us as we celebrate AA and NHPI Heritage Month. You can follow EDI on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram at @NIH_EDI and use #NIH_AANHPI to participate in the campaign. To get involved and learn more about the AA and NHPI Employment Portfolio, visit the AA and NHPIportfolio page or contact

On behalf of EDI, we thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Shelma Middleton Little, Ph.D.
Acting EDI Director



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