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Celebrating Diversity at Hopkins

students from the diversity symposium

By Susana Rodriguez, Ph.D., Post Doctoral Fellow, Department of Physiology

On December 4th, Turner concourse was bustling with eager, young, and talented research trainees arriving with posters in hand, ready to discuss their scientific findings with faculty judges and meeting participants; the 3rd Annual Excellence in Diversity (EiD) Symposium was officially underway at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The symposium, held by the Diversity Postdoctoral Alliance Committee (DPAC), is a celebration of the diverse breadth of research performed by underrepresented minority (URM) learners, ranging from high school to the postdoctoral level.

poster presentation with two studentsWe work to create a positive environment at the EiD where URM trainees can feel welcomed and acknowledged for their research. I participated in several URM science conferences as an undergrad and the experiences reinforced my love for research and shaped my identity as a young scientist.  My favorite memories from those times were entering the symposium hall to see so many people like myself doing research. I would be inspired by the science journeys of URM faculty and other leaners I would meet at these conferences. Overall, the experiences made me feel connected to the science community. However, that feeling dissipated in my predoctoral and postdoctoral training. The mechanisms that I relied on that were supportive of URM learners were not available or limited in capacity. At the EiD symposium, URM learners come together to feel celebrated and connected by members of their own and other local institutions, particularly as many of us struggle to be respected for our presence in graduate programs and departments.

This year’s event brought the largest turnout of symposium participants coming together to celebrate STEM diversity on the Hopkins Medical campus. The URM learners came from multiple Hopkins institutions and local institutions including Howard University, James Madison University, Morgan State, NIH Bayview, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland Medical School, and local high schools. The event featured 75 poster presenters, more than doubling last year’s poster session! Several learners were selected for highly competitive oral presentations at the pre and post-graduate levels. Overall, the talent exhibited by all the learners was breath taking! It was a sentiment that was further reiterated repeatedly amongst the Hopkins Faculty, DPAC committee members, and EiD attendees. The event was further bolstered by the superb plenary talks by Dr. Candice Bridge from the University of Central Florida, and Dr. Alberto Roca from and Diverse Scholar.

With the EiD symposium, we strive to empower young URM scientists by giving them the opportunity to share their research with the local scientific community and encourage their scientific growth.  At the symposium, trainees have the opportunity to get feedback on their research as well as getting practice of communicating their science to a diverse research audience. It’s a skill that they will continue to develop throughout their career. Furthermore, the Eid is a great platform to bring URM trainees from local institutions together to network and foster collaborations between faculty and trainees.

students talking about posterSince there are so many talented young researchers in the DMV area, we worked extensively with Dr. Damani Piggott, assistant dean for graduate biomedical education and graduate student diversity, to connect us with local universities to invite URM trainees to participate in the symposium. In addition to having learners from local universities present their research, our goal is to have them consider Hopkins for medical or graduate school. Therefore, we invite Hopkins faculty and graduate program directors to meet with the visiting URM learners during the poster sessions to facilitate these connections.

Our event has continued to grow every year demonstrating the need for events like EiD to support the growing URM community at Hopkins as we work together to create a more inclusive and diverse environment. With the support we received from the Office of the Provost, faculty, graduate programs, departmental staff, JHPDA, and trainees, we can ensure to make the EiD an annual success.

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