Message to the Biomedical Graduate Student Community

February 11, 2021

Message to the Biomedical Graduate Student Community

J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD

EVP/Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine

Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD, ML

Vice Dean for Penn Medicine Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity


As we know you are aware, Penn Medicine recently announced the Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT), a multi-year strategic plan to combat systemic racism across our institution and in the communities we serve. Development of the plan over the past six months included significant input from BGS students, post-doctoral fellows, faculty, and staff. The information gathered through this process in collaboration with the Combatting Racial Inequities Committee (CRIC) led by Drs. Donita Brady and Mary Mullins, has informed our approach to improve the culture and experience of all members of our community. We are writing to thank and acknowledge all those who participated in the ACT process and to reaffirm our commitment to having a tangible positive impact on inclusion and diversity in the BGS community.

Your voices were heard. Initiatives you proposed have been included in the plan and are among our highest institutional priorities. In particular, we are committed to securing increased funding for recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and students. Among these strategies is funding for 6 new Presidential Professorships in the basic sciences. We also will be placing a sharper focus on conducting research in areas impacting underserved populations. We will accelerate our efforts to develop and coordinate targeted recruitment strategies and will provide increased academic and professional career development training and social support to members of our academic community who feel marginalized or are underrepresented in the sciences.

ACT’s vision of an anti-racist, equitable, diverse, and inclusive scientific community will benefit from your ongoing engagement in the process. We are excited by the many grass-roots actions that demonstrate continued momentum. As one example, Dr. Mary Mullins, who was deeply engaged in the ACT process and co-leader of CRIC, along with numerous other faculty members are organizing an NIH FIRST award to provide funding for cluster hires of underrepresented faculty on the tenure track.  Efforts like these are the beginning of the transformation for a more inclusive culture.

We also want to highlight the efforts of the existing and newly formed student groups to strengthen and enhance our culture through their programming, from book clubs to virtual activities. We especially thank our student leaders of existing student groups like Biomedical Graduate Student Association, the EE Just Society, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Chapter, LTBGS (our LGBTQ student group), Graduate student Led Initiatives and Activities (GLIA) Committee, The IGG Graduate student Association (IgA), Pharm 4 GOOD, as well as our new student groups, such as the Peer Support Network and the Minority Support Network.  Together these student groups have worked to support and enhance our student culture and spirt through tremendous challenges. Galvanizing our student groups will be an important part of ACT, and we are fortunate to have a strong foundation in these student groups on which to build.

The ACT initiative will institutionalize, and help to integrate and adequately resource, activities for our students and trainees throughout PSOM. We encourage you to continue to walk this journey with us, as we work to improve our culture and advance equity in every aspect of biomedical science.