A commitment to diversity goes beyond whom we recruit and enroll in a STEM-related pathway. Drawing upon our racial and cultural differences is crucial to executing our mission to improve science and health. While underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities (URMs) make up roughly 30 percent of the total U.S. population, URMs are particularity underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Blacks make up 9% of STEM workers, while Hispanics comprise only 7% of all STEM workers. Additionally, only about 6 percent of practicing physicians and 9 percent of nurses are Latino, African-American or Native American. We all know that social and cultural factors play a major role in health and illness. Studies show that students trained at diverse schools are more comfortable treating patients from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. For example, when the physician is the same race as the patient, patients report higher levels of trust and satisfaction. The visits even last longer—by 2.2 minutes, on average. When students enter schools, employees enter job spaces, and patients enter hospitals, they want to see staff members and physicians who resemble them. All of this matters if we are going to start chipping away at the troubling science, technology and health disparity gaps we see in America.
I believe that science, technology, engineering, and math all impact our every day lives, and each field needs to be enriched by diverse perspectives so that all communities can equally benefit from this impact. Working with students who are underrepresented in STEM fields means supporting their goals and aspirations, and ensuring that their lived experiences expand what we currently know STEM to be. Our STEM students are building futures in fields such as Environmental Engineering, Microbiology, and Information Technology, and it is imperative that their perspectives are equally represented in our future.