MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Dissect social issues in science, medicine with AMBR’s Empowerment in Science teach-in series

October 31, 2019
Ayesha Khan/AMBR

The Association of Minority Biomedical Researchers (AMBR) is launching its second annual Empowerment in Science teach-in series for the 2019-2020 academic year. This series is designed to inspire students and the GSBS community to engage in discussions about important social justice issues; learn how to navigate them; to be active allies; and find resources. This year AMBR is featuring the following five events in the series: I) Living with Disabilities (Visible and Hidden), II) Implicit Bias 101, III) Access to Health Care: Sexual Health and Sexuality, IV) Immigration 101 for Allies, and V) Parenthood in Science and Academia.

This discussion-oriented series was launched in 2018 in response to AMBR members voicing that there needed to be spaces at the GSBS for students to discuss complex social issues that affect marginalized communities in science and beyond. Members also wanted a platform for allies to learn about solidarity and tangible advocacy from their peers and colleagues. The 2018-2019 series was well attended by the Graduate School students, faculty, staff, as well as members of our sister schools: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. AMBR secured sponsorship from the UTHealth Student InterCouncil for the first series since it had a wide-impact and benefit to all UTHealth students. The first series discussed the following four topics: I) Implicit Bias 101: The Data, II) Living with Disabilities, III) Power Dynamics in Science, and IV) Know Your Rights.

The structure of the teach-ins were inspired by activists and scholars who used this practical framework to educate audiences about social issues. The concept of the teach-in was conceived by anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, PhD, of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1965 as he organized a teach-in for students and faculty to oppose the Vietnam War (1, 2). It has since been used by many grassroots leaders, and become an integral part of community education. The root word is derived from “teaching in” rather than “teaching out” speaking to the goal of teach-ins to dissect internal biases and empower from within.

AMBR is transforming the Empowerment in Science series this year by featuring active, simulation-style or discussion-based workshops. The first powerful event, Living with Disabilities: Empowerment and Advocacy, will be held on Monday, November 11, in the GSBS Large Classroom (S3.8371). MD Anderson experts Vanessa Archila, Michelle Colvard, MS, and Chitra Viswanathan, MD, will led this workshop and speak about their personal experiences living with disabilities and advocating for equity. The event will also dissect hidden disabilities from the lens of mental health. The goal of this event is to talk about the disability advocacy movement and the essentiality of allyship.

In second event of the series, Implicit Bias 101, AMBR will feature a panel of successful minority scientists who will share in detail their experiences with implicit bias within and beyond science. An expert in active simulation will lead the event that will equip the audience with critical tools to be an active ally or bystander in challenging bias.

The third teach-in: Access to Health Care will be hosted in collaboration with the GSBS LGBT Student Alliance, and will be led by queer community health experts and sexual health physicians. The event will delve into accessible resources for sexual health and include a focus on queer sexual health.

Teach-in IV, Immigration 101 for Allies: Awareness and Advocacy, was inspired by AMBR’s commitment to advocate for and be in solidarity with the large immigrant community and international student community at the GSBS. The teach-in will be a panel-led session for allies to learn about the immigration process in the US from the perspective of an immigrant and will highlight the challenges and hurdles immigrants’ encounter that heavily impact their science regularly. This will also be a safe space for international students to voice their concerns and ways the collective community can better support them.

Finally, the Parenthood in Science and Academia teach-in is a long-standing topic AMBR has wanted to address for years. Balancing career advancement and scientific productivity with a family has been a battle for many scientists and physicians, especially women in academia. Many of student are unaware of what resources are available for maternity or paternity leave, health care with dependents, and child care. Students are also not explicitly made aware of how to plan their careers in academia based on their family-planning timeline. A panel of students and faculty who have had to navigate these questions will lead this teach-in; and share their resources. A GSBS human resources representative will discuss the resources currently available to GSBS students.

Join AMBR for this Empowerment in Science teach-in series to learn more about important social issues that affect students’ science or everyday life. And learn how to be an active ally and empower yourself with resources.

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