Diversity and Inclusion Committee Plans to Expand Society’s Reach and Resources

Rayne Rouce, M.D. - February 01, 2021

To recognize Black History Month, this weekly series will introduce ASGCT's new Diversity and Inclusion Committee and highlight gene therapy research initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for diseases that disproportionately affect the Black community.

Following a year of societal upheaval, punctuated with racial injustice and health disparities, the ASGCT Strategic Planning Committee approved the creation of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee with a mandate to ensure the Society is an equitable environment, respectful of and empathetic to the diversity of our membership. Throughout the course of Black History Month, we will introduce the committee, spotlight some of its members and initiatives, and discuss current and future gene therapy research for the treatment of diseases like sickle cell that predominantly affect minority populations.  

The committee is deeply invested in increasing equity through three main vectors. First, we aim to expand the Society’s reach to groups that are not as well represented within ASGCT. Second, we will dedicate resources to both mentorship and funding for individual researchers of color. Finally, we will enhance support of research on gene and cell therapy for diseases that disproportionately affect the Black community and other communities of color.  

To achieve these goals, we will first evaluate existing society policies and procedures and will develop processes and policies to encourage both diversity and inclusion. In an effort to better understand our own ASGCT community and its members, we already have created a census to collect membership data and an outreach program to involve a variety of underrepresented groups in our programming. One result of these efforts was the development, in conjunction with the Ethics Committee, of a symposium on racial justice in gene therapy that will take place during this year’s virtual Annual Meeting (May 11-14).

The committee will have a strong focus on mentorship to grow the number of researchers of color in the field. In addition to recruitment, we will also be responsible for implementing bias and empathy training for ASGCT leadership and the broader community in the future.

Lastly, during Black History Month, we are excited to highlight, through the lens of Black ASGCT members, gene therapy research initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for diseases like SCD, which disproportionately affect the Black community.

Below is the complete list of committee members who will work tirelessly to achieve these goals and make ASGCT a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization:

  • Maritza McIntyre, Ph.D. (Chair)
  • Allistair Abraham, M.D.
  • Jen Adair, Ph.D.
  • Marco Davila, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Saar Gill, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Hans-Peter Kiem, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Avery Posey, Ph.D.
  • Rayne Rouce, M.D.
  • Autumn J. Schulze, Ph.D.
  • Kaye Spratt, Ph.D. 

Dr. Rouce is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and a member of the ASGCT Communications Committee.

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