Aligned Blog: Building Community: Celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month

This graphic includes various flowers and says "Celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month: Advancing Leaders"

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By Sonia A. Garcia, Ph.D., Scientific Diversity Program Manager, Office of Equity & Inclusion

In the face of adversity, an inherent human resilience propels us forward, uniting us in solidarity and action. The challenges brought about by the pandemic were profound, touching every corner of society. Among the many issues that emerged, one particularly alarming trend was the surge in anti-Asian hate across the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documented a 70% increase in reports of anti-Asian hate in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic reflecting broader issues of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans, underscoring the urgent need for solidarity and action.

Amidst these troubling times, the NIH Federation of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Network (FAN) emerged as a symbol of hope and resilience. Established in April 2021, FAN provides a community for individuals from AANHPI backgrounds. FAN chair Dr. T. Jake Liang of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases noted “Like many FAN members, I did not become proactive in advocating for AA & NHPIs at NIH until 2021 when the anti-AA & NHPI hate crimes were widespread. We all realized then that silence is not an option, and together we are indeed stronger.”

FAN steering committee members, including Dr. Anna Han of the Office of the Director at the NIH, recognized the importance of addressing these issues. "We had a lot of anecdotes and stories, but we didn't have data to back it up," said Dr. Han. "To remedy this, we launched the survey to get a better sense of AA & NHPIs at NIH.” FAN launched a comprehensive survey in 2022 utilizing a data-driven approach to better understand the challenges faced by AANHPI professionals in the NIH intramural program. This led FAN to successfully organize its first Town Hall that brought members together to present and discuss the challenges and opportunities for AANHPI folks in the NIH workforce.

Survey results were presented at FAN’s Inaugural Town Hall, and spotlighted a critical issue affecting the workforce at NIH: the scarce representation of AANHPI folks in senior leadership positions. The findings highlighted a discrepancy between the perception and reality of Asian Americans at the NIH: despite 76% of respondents showing interest in career advancement, the number of AANHPI folks in senior leadership positions who can make organizational, management, and policy decisions (including hiring, setting strategic priorities, policy and program decisions, and resource allocations) at the NIH is 6%.

Initiatives like the NIH FAN and Employee Resource Groups play a crucial role in fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity in the workplace and serve as a resource for employees who share similar backgrounds or experiences, underscoring the vital importance of building community and solidarity. The establishment of groups like the FAN further emphasizes the significance of building supportive communities within organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In support of the AANHPI community, the Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI) is proud to announce our latest seminar series “Celebrating  AANHPI Heritage Month: Advancing Leaders.” Through this dynamic seminar series, we hope to honor the rich history and remarkable achievements of AANHPI communities while addressing critical issues such as leadership and health disparities among the AANHPI community.

On May 23, 2024, at noon., we’ll welcome Sunmin Lee, Sc.D., M.P.H., from the University of California, Irvine, who will present her talk “Community-Engaged Research to Reduce Cancer and Sleep Health Disparities in Asian Americans: Challenges and Opportunities.” In this seminar, Dr. Lee will discuss the impact of the model minority myth on her career and her groundbreaking research addressing health disparities within Asian American communities. This seminar is open to the public, and we hope you will join us in learning about advancing health equity within Asian American communities.

In conjunction with FAN, we’re excited to host a panel discussion for NIH staff titled, “Pathways to Leadership: Navigating AANHPI Leadership Disparities,” which will delve into the root causes of leadership disparities among Asian American professionals at the NIH and discuss how the NIH/NCI and CCR can be more supportive. 

In celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month, we reaffirm our commitment to building a more inclusive and equitable scientific workforce here at CCR. We can overcome challenges and pave the way for progress and success by amplifying diverse voices, fostering community, and embracing solidarity. Together, we can create a workplace where everyone, regardless of background, is valued, supported, and empowered to thrive. 

Aligned is a blog written by the Center for Cancer Research's (CCR) Office of Equity and Inclusion discussing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) and highlighting various ways we can all be more involved in creating a more diverse scientific workforce. Learn more about CCR's commitment to inclusion.

Posted on Mon, 05/20/2024