Dear Colleagues,

Please take a moment to read the very important statement below from Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, titled “NIH stands against structural racism in biomedical research.” This document is so much more than a policy statement. It’s a public commitment to identifying and eliminating racial injustice within our own ranks and among the organizations and activities that we support. As Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and part of the NIH, I want to affirm for all NIEHS staff, grantees, friends and stakeholders across the global environmental health sciences community that I fully support Dr. Collins and will tirelessly work to establish new ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to identify and dismantle any policies and practices that may harm our workforce and our science. I pledge to work diligently with Dr. Collins to implement the new NIH-wide initiative called UNITE in both spirit and in practice.

The UNITE initiative is being informed by five committees with experts across all 27 NIH institutes and centers who have agreed to develop specific plans and make recommendations to address racial diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each letter in UNITE represents a specific area of need for developing plans, resources, and accountabilities.

The five objectives associated with UNITE are:

U Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning 
N New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equities
I Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion and excellence
T Transparency, communication, and accountability with our internal and external stakeholders

Extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity

In addition to the actions already underway at NIEHS, I will continue to work with the NIEHS senior leadership team to support the UNITE initiative and to make sure that it is embraced and implemented both throughout our institute and, to the best of our ability, across every component of Environmental Health Sciences research community. A Request for Information (RFI) was issued today and will be open through April 9, 2021. It’s important that you respond to the RFI so that your voice can be heard and your perspective can be incorporated into the NIH plan. I encourage you to visit the newly launched NIH webpage on Ending Structural Racism, which aims to increase transparency on this important issue.

The ugliness of racial discrimination must finally end for the benefit of all humankind, and to the advantage of science and scientists around the world. We must embrace this opportunity now to address racism in a way that will be transformative for the biomedical and environmental health sciences workforce.

I believe this is an opportunity for deep introspection, honest evaluation, and personal growth. I hope that we can all join the momentum around the UNITE initiative. As Dr. Collins indicated, together we’re stronger. We can do this!

Rick Woychik, Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program