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A Need for Minority Researchers

Posted on March 30, 2009

Keith A. Trujillo (bio) talks about why it's important to support minority researchers in the biomedical sciences.

 

There is significant under-representation of minority groups in the biomedical sciences. Severely underrepresented. I guess the best way to state it is there's a significant need.

When you take a look at the big picture, if there's only certain types of people that do science, then certain questions will remain unanswered. People coming from minority groups have different questions that they want addressed and that they need addressed. And they're going to come with much more energy and much more desire to have the answers fulfilled if they come into the field.

Let's think about some of the health problems that plague minorities in greater numbers than, say, in the majority population. When you have a student who has somebody in their own family that's afflicted, that's something that they want to approach and want to have done in a very important way. And when we have such severe under-representation, we're not going to achieve those things. And so one of my goals is to help students recognize the opportunities that are there and the things that they can do.

What we find with certain under-represented groups is they tend to go more practical professions, so they'll want to be physicians and go back and work in their community. They'll want to be lawyers and go back and work in their community. So as they move up the educational ladder, they're looking for ways that they can contribute, and science typically isn't the way that they see themselves contributing.

But what I try to do is help them recognize that, as a physician, they can help one person at a time. As a lawyer, they can help one person at a time. But as a researcher, they might address a question that can help many thousands of people. And so I try and get them to see the opportunities and the benefits of pursuing a career in research that can go back and help their community many times over.

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Excerpted from an interview with researcher at the 2008 National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse Conference in Bethesda, MD.

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