Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Need for Women and Minorities in Health Field

BOND: Now, is there still a need today to push for the inclusion of women, of racial minorities, in the larger general field of health?

PINN: Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.

BOND: And medical care?

PINN: Well, I think there’re two issues here. One, that there is a need to encourage more women to be involved in science, engineering and health care, and it’s just been wonderful that that is an aspect of my office. It’s something I’ve long been interested in and it’s great that it’s part of the mission of my office at the NIH is the mandate to develop and promote opportunities for women in biomedical careers, so I’ve had an opportunity to use my personal initiatives, personal experiences, to help develop programs in that vein.

Then also looking at the role of minority women in health care and in research. We’ve seen increases over the years, certainly far more than there were when I was coming along, but — and, in fact, in some minority groups, especially African Americans, we see far more African American women than men coming into medicine which raises the concern now about also addressing African American men in terms of getting them into, interested in, and continuing in careers related to medicine and health care. But the major issues now are not so much the pipeline only. We need to continue to encourage young girls of all races and cultures to consider careers in science, not only because it’s stimulating, because it can be wonderful, it can be fulfilling, but if we’re ever going to overcome health disparities, we really need people in there who’re going to understand the issues that women and minorities are facing and I think that that’s a unique quality that we can see in having physicians who are like some of the people they will be taking care of, not that every minority physician has to have a minority patient population, but I think being part of that mix.

But where we’re seeing the major issues are related to advancement of women and minorities in their careers, to senior positions, to leadership positions, to deans of medical schools, dental schools, schools of pharmacy, to being the CEO, to being head of a company, to being the primary — being the principal investigator on a research grant. And so our major focus and my major focus these days is not only to continue to encourage young people to believe in their dreams and to consider careers in health and science and research but also to look at those factors that are obstructing women and minorities from advancing in their careers. That’s both in terms of the education environment, the academic status progression to full professor or tenured professor, department chair, deans, etc., but also just being able to advance in terms of career objectives.

We have some major programs going and I’m just very excited because right now we have some major efforts going in this vein and it’s allowed me to both combine my personal interests with our professional activities for an area that I have been devoted to for many, many years.