Broad Institute Names Chief Equity Officer in Commitment to Inclusive Medicine

The Broad Institute_Company websiteCourtesy Broad Institute

Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute has been a leader in genomic medicine and biomedical research since 2004, and the coalition wants to increase its leadership role in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space. On Wednesday, the Broad announced that it is bringing René Salazar, M.D., on board as its first chief equity officer.

Salazar, the former assistant dean for diversity and professor of internal medicine and medical education at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, is highly qualified for the job. He previously served as chair of the department of medicine’s residency diversity committee and director of diversity for the Office of Graduate Medical Education at the University of California, San Francisco, from 2007 to 2016.

Recently, Salazar took the lead on an article published in The American Journal of Surgery, highlighting frequent gender and sex disparities in that space, including a lack of women among leadership roles and higher attrition rates of women from academic practice. The research also showed that patients are unconsciously biased toward believing that surgeons are men while assuming that women are nurses or support staff. This bias was found to be linked to differences in hiring patterns and discrepancies in pay. 

In his most recent role at the University of Texas, Salazar launched programs to increase the recruitment and retention of students, residents, and trainees from historically marginalized communities. He also spearheaded mentorship programs for underrepresented students within the university and middle and high school students from the broader underrepresented community to expose them to life sciences opportunities.

“This work has to be top-down and ground-up, and I’ll work with leadership to build the skills to meaningfully move this work forward,” Salazar, who has experience as a general internist working within diverse Austin communities, said in a statement. “At the same time, we need to continue to break down barriers and promote a sense of belonging for scientists and staff of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ individuals, in addition to those from other groups that have historically been underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.” 

In the U.S., minority racial and ethnic groups account for nearly 40% of the overall population. Still, just 75% of the 32,000 participants involved in trials of 53 new drugs approved in 2020 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were white. As the Lancet points out, this is in clear contrast to the disproportionate impact of diseases on minority and ethnic communities.

Led by Salazar, Broad’s Diversity, Equity, and Allyship (IDEA) Office will focus on assessing and improving diversity and inclusion through partnerships with leadership, administration, affinity groups and the larger scientific community. And he is getting right to work with an internal Broad panel on Monday, October 18, which will focus on intersectionality and how different identities intersect to create privilege and disadvantage.

“I am delighted to work together with René to make the Broad more inclusive and to foster a deeper sense of belonging throughout the entire community,” said Frances Brooks Taplett, chief people officer at Broad. “We will be working together to bring more diversity across all cohorts at the institute, in both the sciences as well as administration.”

Along with Harvard and MIT, the Broad Institute was founded by Harvard-affiliated hospitals and Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad. It boasts collaborations with over a hundred private and public institutions in more than 40 countries.

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