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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Tackling Diversity in Science by Diversifying Researchers in the Lab

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.