Black History Month event puts focus on African Americans in science

In celebration of Black History Month, the Association for Graduate Student Diversity hosted a panel discussion on the “African American Journey in Science: Accomplishments, Struggles and Perseverance.” Students heard from guest speakers who gave them career advice focused on challenges they might face being students of color.

Dr. Alicia Monroe, provost and senior vice president of academic and faculty affairs, gave opening remarks, reminding students that there are never too many opportunities to pause, reflect and appreciate the contributions that each student contributes to the legacy of science at Baylor College of Medicine.

“We pause during this season of the year to really come together as a community to celebrate, appreciate and to remember the work that you do,” she said. “I want to encourage you to not only celebrate this day, but to persist, and if there is a time when you become discouraged or you feel as though there is no hope, just go out and take a deep breath, reset, come back and get it done.”

Baylor’s first African American Ph.D. graduate, Dr. Bettie Graham, who now is director of extramural operations at the National Human Genome Research Institute, led the event.

Graham gave students seven key points to focus on. She believes these tips have helped her become successful in her career.

  • Be passionate – enjoy what you do
  • Stay focused – remember what you are here for
  • Keep current – science is changing every day
  • Be an integral part of the team – speak up and contribute
  • Know the people you work with – network so you are more than the “new” person
  • Have balance in your life – make time for extra activities
  • Build a personal team – family and friends are important to keep close

“My hope is that in the future, there will no longer be a need for this type of a panel,” Graham said. “I believe and I hope that we will be able to accomplish all the things that we ever wanted to do without all the obstacles that some of us may encounter.”

The panel also included:

  • Kathryn Jones, assistant professor of pediatrics – tropical medicine at Baylor
  • Julianne Pollard-Larkin, assistant professor of radiation physics at MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Antentor Hinton Jr., postdoctoral fellow at the University of Iowa

Panel participants gave graduate students an insight into their individual journeys as African Americans in science. They each offered advice on how to face challenges and encouraged students in attendance to continue to focus on their career paths and to persevere despite obstacles that may come their way.

-By Jeannette Jimenez Sanchez