Executive Officer’s Blog
June 1, 2020
Who We Are
We find ourselves in desperate times with unique and overwhelming challenges not unlike the trials and tribulations encountered by past generations of people down through history. We see crises in every direction that we look and it is difficult to know how to respond effectively. History fails to provide guidelines for how to manage through events affecting our civilization that are unprecedented. Beginning in 2019 and throughout 2020, the world has been experiencing a global pandemic that has seen >105,000 deaths in the United States and >370,000 deaths world-wide due to COVID-19. There is no end in plain sight for the pandemic, and science continues to be under attack by those who refuse to accept the reality of the crisis at hand. In the United States and world-wide, the pandemic has amplified economic and social inequities adding to the challenges of everyday survival. People are struggling and many lack a sufficient economic and social safety net. Most recently in the United States, we have seen multiple new violent manifestations of the persistent social injustice encountered by minority populations for decades. We are shocked by what we see and we fail to identify with the perpetrators of the violence or the demonstrators whose protest became violent and destructive in cities across our country. We cannot believe that these kinds of things continue to take place. These are things that matter. In times like these and in response to events like these, it is natural to ask the question: “who are we?”
The answer to this question is important for us as individuals, as citizens of towns, cities, and states, as members of various racial/ethnic groups, as residents of the United States or other countries. This question can be applied to our departments, centers, and institutions, as well as to our profession as a whole. The answer to this question is critical as it defines our community and reflects to a large extent our values and what we stand for. It’s a question that is worth pondering from time to time, and we should not be satisfied with a superficial assessment or snap judgement. The answer is not an end unto itself. The answer can and should help us improve ourselves as individuals and our community as a collective.
The American Society for Investigative Pathology is above all else a community. Whereas the Society was founded over 100 years ago with a membership that was predominately male and Caucasian, we are now a community that is diverse in every sense of the word. We are inclusive and welcoming. We are men and women. We are young and old. We are working and retired. We work in academia, biotech, industry, non-profits, and government. We are a community of scientists, physicians, physician-scientists, and veterinarians. We were trained in various scientific disciplines and have varied professional experiences. We are a community of basic scientists, clinical investigators, and translational researchers. We work on all aspects of biomedical science, and utilize many different scientific approaches in our research. We live in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. We are citizens of many nations. We represent many races, ethnic groups, cultures, and religions. We come from families with varied socioeconomic and educational status. We are not all of the same sexual orientation or identity. We represent different political viewpoints. We are individuals.
While the American Society for Investigative Pathology is diverse, we have strong shared interests. We share in the pursuit of scientific truths, the generation of new knowledge, and an expanded and sophisticated understanding of human diseases. We share the desire to improve the human condition and to rid the world of unnecessary suffering from disease. We share a curiosity for scientific exploration. We value character and reward accomplishment. We share the objective to educate and train the next generation of scientists as we provide a model for them to follow of honest and ethical research practices. We strive for excellence in our work. We are students and teachers. We are mentors and mentees. We embrace diverse research teams. We seek to provide opportunities for those people in search of new training, new positions, and new challenges. We provide support for our peers, our trainees, and our collaborators. We share our knowledge and expertise broadly. We serve the greater good. We are a village.
The American Society for Investigative Pathology offers its members the opportunity to be a part of the kind of community that we want to see in our towns, cities, states, countries, and around the world. The ASIP represents a community where equality is a prime objective and goal, where opportunities are extended to all, where individuals selflessly support others, where the word “peer” in applied broadly, and where labels are used to identify rather than to distinguish. The ASIP community is not yet perfect…it is a living and breathing work in progress that requires intentional thoughts and actions on the part of the members, elected leadership, and staff. Continued progress towards a culture of equality and opportunity will require all of our best efforts. We look forward to working with each of you as we continue on this journey. In the end, we hope and pray that the best qualities of our Society and its members will be reflected in our world-wide society at-large and its citizens.
So, what are we to do now to effect change in our professional society, our institutions, our communities, and the world at-large? Too often we conclude that we cannot individually contribute in a significant manner to problems as large as systemic racism and discrimination against members of specific groups. This mentality paralyzes us into inaction. The problem appears too enormous for the efforts of a single person or a small group of people. However, every positive action that we make chips away at the larger problem, no matter if that problem is in our professional society, our institutions, our communities, or the world at-large. We must endeavor to combat systemic racism and discrimination by providing opportunities to all people, irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of origin, or other individual characteristics. Through individual actions that are within our power we will effect change at a local level and contribute to culture shifts within our institutions and communities. As Mother Teresa said – “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” We might not be able to provide opportunities to a hundred people, but we can offer opportunities to a few, and that will contribute to the larger solution. Change begins with us.