Celebrating the Contributions of African American Scientists at NIH

honorees from the NLM Black History Month celebration pose with NLM Director Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan

The National Library of Medicine is proud once again to partner with the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to celebrate Black History Month.  This year, we’re marking the occasion by hosting a photographic display celebrating African American scientists at NIH.  The exhibition will be on display through the end of February.

I was delighted to welcome the honorees and their families and friends to the exhibition’s opening ceremony on February 4. Christopher Williams, STEM education director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, acknowledged in his opening remarks the power of being in a room with over 200 people celebrating African American scientists. The event, he noted, “provides an opportunity for those who have been blazing the trails to connect with those who are just starting along the way.”

For Roland Owens, PhD, NIH Director of Research Workforce Development, those just starting out include black youth, hungry for role models. “The purpose of this poster project is to make it easier for everyone to see that there are black scientists doing great things for the world,” he said.

Who are those doers of great things?

Let me introduce you to the 14 black scientists from 10 different institutes and centers across NIH who continue to drive the science and our organization forward.

headshot of Marie Bernard, MDMarie Bernard, MD
Deputy Director, National Institute on Aging

 

posed photo of Darlene Dixon, DVM, PhDDarlene Dixon, DVM, PhD
Group Lead, Molecular Pathogenesis Group, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

 

headshot of Emmeline Edwards, PhDEmmeline Edwards, PhD
Director, Division of Extramural Research, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

 

headshot of Courtney Fitzhugh, MDCourtney Fitzhugh, MD
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

 

headshot of Shawn Gaillard, PhDShawn Gaillard, PhD
Research Training Officer, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

 

posed photo of Gary Gibbons, MDGary Gibbons, MD
Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

 

Carl V. Hill, PhD, MPH, speaks from behind a podiumCarl V. Hill, PhD, MPH
Director, Office of Special Populations, National Institute on Aging

 

headshot of Alfred Johnson, PhDAlfred Johnson, PhD
Deputy Director for Management, Office of the Director

 

headshot of Zayd M. Khaliq, PhDZayd M. Khaliq, PhD
Stadtman Investigator, Cellular Neurophysiology Unit, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

 

posed photo of Worta McCaskill-Stevens, MD, MSWorta McCaskill-Stevens, MD, MS
Chief of the Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group, National Cancer Institute

 

headshot of Roland Owens, PhDRoland Owens, PhD
Assistant Director, Office of Intramural Research, Office of the Director

 

headshot of Anna Ramsey-Ewing, PhDAnna Ramsey-Ewing, PhD
Director, Office of Grants Management and Scientific Review, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

 

posed photo of Griffin Rodgers, MD, MACPGriffin Rodgers, MD, MACP
Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

 

posed photo of Fasil Tekola-Ayele PhDFasil Tekola Ayele PhD
Earl Stadtman Investigator, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

 

The exhibition honoring these scientists is currently on display in the Library’s Lister Hill Center (Bldg 38A). The panels recognize each scientist with his or her photograph, current position, and a quote about his or her career path.

I was touched and challenged by these scientists’ insights as I learned about their particular motivations, significant mentors, and notable experiences that shaped their research and their lives. I also marveled at their range of interests and accomplishments, though I couldn’t help but notice the common threads of tenacity, drive, and commitment to excellence that bound them all together.

I was also struck by the connection across generations as I toured the exhibit in the company of Gary Gibbons, MD, and Paule Joseph, RN, PhD. These two scientists represented different points on the career trajectory: Gibbons an accomplished cardiologist who has been the Director of NHLBI since 2012 (and my personal mentor since I arrived at NIH); and Joseph, a young scholar from the National Institutes of Nursing Research. As we strolled together among the panels and discussed the honorees, I felt grateful for the tremendous accomplishments of my colleagues featured in the exhibition, and I also felt excited and hopeful for the advancements yet to come from so many young, innovative researchers just starting out—and by those coming behind them, inspired by their stories. It leaves me optimistic and eager to see the bright future they will help usher in and makes me wonder what marks they will make on biomedical research and discovery.

Whatever they are, I expect NLM will be there to tell their story. The Library remains committed to showcasing the contributions of African Americans in health care and biomedical science. In fact, four of our History of Medicine’s recent exhibitions highlight those contributions:

  • Binding Wounds, an exhibition about African Americans in Civil War medicine
  • Opening Doors, stories of contemporary African American surgeons
  • Fire & Freedom, a look at power imbalance, food, and enslavement in the early days of the United States
  • The Politics of Yellow Fever, which includes the essential role Philadelphia’s free African American residents played during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793

You can see three of those exhibitions on display now at NLM. Two, Binding Wounds and Opening Doors, are set up in the Lister Hill Center (Bldg 38A) around the corner from the panels featuring our 14 scientist honorees. The third, The Politics of Yellow Fever, which just opened January 11, occupies the entryway to our History of Medicine Division.

If you can’t visit in person, check out the companion websites for each of these exhibitions. You’ll be glad you did—and grateful, like me, for the  contributions of African American healers, clinicians, and scientists.

Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine

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