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Burchard leads call for diversity in research workforce
The photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. hanging on the wall of the Asthma Collaboratory lab in UC San Francisco’s Rock Hall serves a reminder to all who toil there, purifying DNA samples or analyzing genetic, social or environmental data that their research is also part of a dream of equality and scientific excellence.
The lab’s director, Esteban G. Burchard, MD, MPH, has become a leading national voice for increasing diversity in the biomedical research workforce, which he sees as deeply tied to racial inequalities in health care.
“It’s like when we only studied heart disease in men and tried to generalize all those results to women,” Burchard says. “It was only when more women became part of research that we realized that the biology is actually different and we realized we can’t treat heart disease in women the same way.”
Burchard is tackling the diversity issue at the national level in his appointment to President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative panel to ensure that its hugely ambitious work is ethnically diverse.
But in his own lab, he aims to address both the diversity of research and of researchers by recruiting young people of diverse backgrounds to push forward research into the genetic and environmental causes of differences in health between races and ethnicities. “We are building a safe haven for students from all backgrounds to conduct revolutionary research,” he says.
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About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.