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From the NIH Director: 2021 Black History Month

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Dear NIH Family,

This month—our nation’s 45th Black History Month celebration—we commemorate the invaluable contributions of the Black community at NIH and around the world. This year’s recognition of Black History Month feels especially important as more recent events of social and racial injustice have awakened us to long-standing and enduring structural racism that allows such events to recur. As I wrote to you this summer, I feel a personal sense of heartbreak and devastation as I witness these events and think of the tragic echoes of what has come before.

That said, all around us I see small signs of hope. For example, on January 20, as the Honorable Kamala D. Harris was sworn in as Vice President of the United States, Americans witnessed history and a transformation in the landscape of our country’s leadership. As the first woman and first member of the Black and South Asian-American communities to hold a nationally elected office, Vice President Harris’ inauguration was a momentous occasion because it provides a vision for people of all races and genders to see them in position of leadership. I am grateful to have witnessed it and to have welcomed Vice President Harris to NIH last week to receive her second COVID vaccine and for her to see our staff and clinicians hard at work.

Above all, NIH is an institution devoted to finding ways to reduce suffering and promoting health for everyone. This year's Black History Month theme, "small actions, big impact: using allyship to enhance our culture," highlights the vital role allies play in promoting a culture of inclusion and equity. NIH as a community embraces allyship and takes an action-based approach to inclusion and equity. Being a good ally requires ongoing work and is fostered by education and commitment to diversity. At NIH, we are reliable, capable, and resilient because of our diversity, and we must never forget that our commitment to allyship across all of NIH drives our excellence as a workplace and our innovation as a premier biomedical research agency.

This year, as we celebrate Black History Month, I invite you to visit NIH’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion's (EDI) website to view the online campaign. There you can learn more about NIH's demographic landscape and view a range of EDI resources on how to be a good ally and help create a more inclusive and equitable work environment. This month, please support EDI's Portfolio for Blacks and get involved in efforts to improve the outreach, recruitment, retention, and advancement diverse populations at NIH. Please contact Dr. Samantha-Rae Dickenson, the Principal Strategist for the Black Portfolio in EDI's Special Emphasis Portfolio Branch, for more information.

I will leave you with the message I have shared several times during the course of this difficult year: we are blessed for the ability to serve together and participate in critical work. It is my belief that when we stand together as one NIH committed to fostering a culture of inclusion, equity, and respect for one another, justice and science will endure.

Sincerely yours,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

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