Being Black in Physiology

  • 1 Keisa W. Mathis, PhD, is Assistant Professor at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. Corey L. Reynolds, PhD, is Regional Medical Scientific Director at Merck, Kenilworth, NJ. Clintoria R. Williams, PhD, is Assistant Professor at Wright State University, Dayton, OH.
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According to surveys conducted by the Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology, the percentage of Black faculty has averaged 1% for the past 20 years (1). This same trend in lack of representation exists for the trainee (graduate student and postdoc) level as well, further complicating the recruitment and retention of the next generation of Black physiologists. It was due to these defaults in the system that in the summer of 2020, Black in Physiology (BiP), an organization committed to nurturing and celebrating Black excellence throughout the physiology community, was created by four charter members. Currently, two BiP Executive Board members are renal physiologists.

The BiP community serves as an inclusive space for not only those who consider themselves Black or African American scientists in physiology or physiology-related fields but also for supporters, allies, and advocates. BiP is represented by several different areas of physiology, including renal, cardiovascular, and integrative. BiP is dedicated to fortifying a community for Black physiologists by enhancing visibility and ensuring that resources, support, and guidance are readily accessible. The current focus of BiP is primarily working with trainees at the graduate student and postdoctoral levels; however, some events and workshops offer information and pearls of wisdom that are valuable to students at all levels, including undergraduates (Figure 1). Since its inception, BiP has been dedicated to using the diverse talents of community members to support the professional and scientific development of Black physiologists. BiP has hosted events on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGiSqPJyoL4&ab_channel=KeisaMathis) including discussions on the recruitment, retention, and promotion of Black physiologists (2) as well as how to effectively navigate the early stages of academia (3). BiP also hosted a week of events (BiP Week) in 2020 and 2021 that included panel discussions and workshops around topics such as scientific communication and alternative careers in physiology. Given the current climate and pressures that have been placed on trainees and faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic, BiP Week 2021 thoughtfully included a Mental Health Table Talk, moderated by a licensed therapist.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Black in Physiology timeline and accomplishments

Citation: Kidney News 14, 4

In addition to BiP Weeks, the inaugural Conference for Black Physiologists (C4BP) was held in April 2021. C4BP relayed an abundance of professional development nuggets from Black leaders in academia, industry, and government. Scientific talks and moderated poster sessions were presented by up-and-coming Black leaders in the areas of renal, cardiovascular, reproductive, gastrointestinal, and neuroscience physiology. The week also included several social engagement opportunities, all meant to help enhance attendees’ networks and importantly, their net worth.

Future events include a hybrid C4BP 2022 conference that will feature 2 days of virtual events and 1 day of in-person events to coincide with the Experimental Biology (EB) 2022 meeting being held in April in Philadelphia. In-person events will include a featured topic oral presentation session at EB, titled “Diseases That Impact the Black Community: This Is My Why,” and an evening social networking event. Future goals of BiP are to continue to provide relevant workshops and sessions and to offer graduate students scholarship and fellowship opportunities. However, because BiP is a nonprofit organization, its success is largely dependent on financial support that it receives from individual and corporate sponsors.

If you would like more information about BiP or to donate, please see our webpage at www.blackinphysiology.com, or follow us on Twitter (@BlackInPhysio), Instagram (@blackinphysio), or Linkedin (Black in Physiology, Inc.). BiP workshop videos can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/SxgoQF4qFVI.

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