Social Statements

The Arany lab recognizes that scientific and biomedical discovery does not take place in isolation from society.  Historic and current events have led us to take an active stance in examining how research – in academia at large and the Arany lab in particular – can take up the work of creating a more equitable society and begin by reckoning with past or continuing wrongs.  These statements are a start to this over-due project.   

July 2020

Diabetes is often made a big joke in our country. There is likely no disease that is made fun of more in main-stream media. You can lose your eyesight, your ability to walk, and your entire life from this disease. How is that funny to anyone? Our jokes normalize the idea that diabetes should not be taken seriously, and this mentality translates into the medical world. Diabetes is a disease – not a joke. Making diabetes into a joke is damaging to all diabetics, and it is especially damaging to Black and Brown diabetics.

Type 2 diabetes is more than a “fat person’s disease”. Insulin resistance is genetic. Sometimes losing weight doesn’t cut it. We are not advocating against diet and exercise, but we are advocating against them as the be-all, end-all of diabetes. In addition, the treatment disparities between white and Black diabetics are deeply troubling (the following statistics and statements are combining all types of diabetics because this happens to type 1s, type 2s, LADA patients, MODY patients, etc.). Black diabetics are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes complications like retinopathy (vision loss). Black diabetics are less likely to be prescribed the same treatment options as white diabetics like enough insulin, insulin pumps, blood glucose lowering drugs (metformin, SGLT2 inhibitors), and continuous glucose monitors. And Black diabetics are twice as likely to die from this disease than white diabetics. Black diabetics are often told to simply lose weight, to diet, and to exercise. Their symptoms are not taken as seriously, they are given fewer resources to treat this disease, and they are more likely to avoid seeking medical care for all of these reasons. A vial of insulin costs about $300 dollars, enough to last only one month if self-paying. Black diabetics are less likely to be insured than white diabetics due to socioeconomic disparities rooted in systemic racism. So, even if Black diabetics are prescribed enough insulin in the first place, they may not be able to afford it and will be forced to ration it. This is deadly. 

We urge all researchers to consider who is affected by the disease they study. Are you advocating for these patients or against them? What do you mean when you say diabetes is due to “lifestyle factors”? This is a common phrase used in almost every introduction to type 2 diabetes. We as diabetes researchers must stop playing into these damaging stereotypes about diabetes. We must stop making jokes, stop blaming patients. We as scientists have a unique platform to communicate how serious this disease is. Communication and education are an essential part of our jobs. We have an obligation to advocate for these patients. We in the Arany lab are committing ourselves to do so, and we encourage other labs to do the same.

Please reach out to megan.blair@pennmedicine.upenn.edu to learn more about how to advocate for diabetics.

June 2020

The horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Dominique Fells, and innumerous others are a gruesome illustration of the systemic anti-Black racism that the United States was founded on, and too often continues to run on. We in the Arany lab are outraged by the vicious police brutality that has led to many of these murders, and recognize that it is a direct result of an extensive history of white supremacy. We also recognize that police brutality is only the tip of the iceberg, and that mass incarceration, redlining, tokenism, white silence and other myriad macro- and micro-aggressions are manifestations of the horrific racism that has plagued this country since its inception.

Silence is not an option. We denounce white supremacy. We denounce racism. We denounce police brutality. As scientists, we specifically recognize the fundamental role that racism has played in academia, science, and medicine for centuries. From the racist underpinnings of HeLa cells to the blatant abuse of the Tuskegee experiments and intellectual theft of Vivien Thomas, our field has repeatedly been built on white supremacy and pure injustice. Anti-Black racism persists in science today. Black trainees are discouraged from pursuing academic science. Black academics are discriminated against for academic positions and grant applications. We refuse to let this unjust work environment continue. 

Black people have not only had to live through these constant acts of racism, but have also been overburdened with doing the work to dismantle white supremacy. We are extremely overdue in doing the work to demolish racism, both in academia and in the society at large, and we are dedicating ourselves to do so now. 

We in the Arany lab are fully committing ourselves to develop and sustain an anti-racist, welcoming lab environment for Black and under-represented minority trainees. We are not only taking up the work to do so in our own lab, but we are also devoting ourselves to dismantle anti-Black racism in the larger scientific and academic community that we are a part of. To begin this work, we are committing ourselves to speak out against racism and micro-agressions in our academic workplace as well as in our personal lives. We are additionally educating ourselves on the history of anti-Black racism in America and specifically in science. Finally, we are currently actively engaged in discussions about a list of actionable items our lab will undertake to combat racism.

In solidarity, 

Arany lab