Over the last several days, countless institutions have spoken out against the systemic social, economic and racial injustices epitomized by the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Ahmaud Arbery in South Georgia. Many scientific societies, including our sister society OTIS and the Society of Toxicology, have denounced the violence targeted against African Americans and renewed their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, to which our Society belongs, has declared an urgent need to do better and is preparing to take positive actions.
What is the role of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention during these troubling times? What power do we have to effect positive and meaningful change? When a problem is so enormous, we sometimes convince ourselves that we are not capable of addressing it. This, colleagues, is simply not true.
When asked to reflect on recent events, I admit that I felt completely unprepared and undeserving of the role. But in an odd coincidence, I have been working on a video history of our wonderful Society for the 60th Annual Meeting. No matter which scientist or Society leader I researched, there was a unifying purpose and common commitment: our Society was founded to serve and to protect the vulnerable.
In recent years, we have focused strongly on the issue of health and racial disparities affecting both maternal health and the quality of life for babies born into communities of low socio-economic status. We recognize that people of color are disproportionately represented in these vulnerable populations due to a long history of racial injustice and oppression in the United States. We have always worked to understand how our differences affect our susceptibility to teratogenic agents. From folic acid supplementation to drug safety, we have advocated for policies and regulations to improve public health, and we announce our commitment to strengthen these efforts especially with respect to their impact on people of color.
As scientists, we have always recognized the transformative power of diversity in the many disciplines represented in the Society. We have always known that we can only make great progress through collaboration and our collective wisdom. You have given me hope in these troubling times, and I thank you. I trust that you will honor our Society’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, knowing together we can and will make a difference.
Christine Perdan Curran, BDRP President
Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention Diversity and Inclusion Statement: The Society values the principles of diversity, inclusivity, and equity, and embraces all aspects of these principles within its leadership, committees, and membership. We encourage diversity and inclusivity in scientific learning and practice based on, but not limited to, age, physical ability, ethnicity, geography, language, religion, sex, gender identity and expression, socio-economic status, segment of the scientific community, and any other visible or non-visible differences with equitable treatment of all.