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Ask tough questions: PhD student Sebastian Diaz

October 12, 2021

Sebastian Diaz, a PhD student in immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine (YSM), said it’s hard to be among the pioneers, but because medical students from underrepresented backgrounds have pushed for greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) supported by resources “We have a very robust system that is now becoming bigger and bigger every year.”

Diaz made the comments as part of a discussion around DEI topics with students from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), as part of one of 10 NIH-funded BP-ENDURE programs designed to promote diversity in neuroscience. Through the virtual program, UPR students presented posters to Yale faculty, grad students, and postdocs and received written feedback, and attended talks on diversity and LatinX affinity groups like Boricuas (Puerto Ricans) at Yale. Last year was the first that Yale participated, partnering with Hunter College, a public university in New York.

Diaz credits the work of student groups like the Yale chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the Yale BBS Diversity and Inclusion committee (YBDIC) for advocating for more equitable recruitment and hiring processes, and for building a dynamic and visible community of minoritized students at YSM.

“Today, the YBDIC has the associate chief diversity officer from the medical school, Rochelle Smith, who serves as our faculty advisor,” he said. “We have a formal budget, and we have direct recognition from the BBS director. We have people who are not minority individuals who are now very engaged in this work. Our chair and vice chair in immunobiology are incredibly committed.”

Wherever they ultimately apply to medical school, Diaz advised the UPR students to ask tough questions about their support for minoritized students and proactive efforts to combat racism and promote equality.

“Be hard on the institutions that are offering you interviews,” Diaz said. “Be very hard. Be very honest. Because people who are truly committed to this opportunity won’t be offended – they will be delighted.”

Submitted by Brita Belli on October 12, 2021