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YBDIC: Transforming the Landscape of Inclusivity in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Yale School of Medicine

December 13, 2023
by Jasree Peralta

At Yale School of Medicine, the Yale Biological and Biomedical Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Collective (YBDIC) has emerged as a catalyst for change, dedicated to fostering the intellectual and personal growth of underrepresented minority (URM) students in the biological and biomedical sciences (BBS). Grounded in a mission driven by engagement, empowerment, outreach, and advancement, YBDIC is reshaping the landscape of inclusivity within the academic community.

Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Pharmacology and Professor of Comparative Medicine Anton Bennett, PhD, is a founder and co-advisor of YBDIC. He shed some light on the organization's roots. "I along with a former BBS student, Titilayo Omotade, founded YBDIC in 2019," he said. “YBDIC is a student-run platform designed to strengthen the community of students from diverse backgrounds through the promotion of inclusion in the BBS.”

YBDIC's foundation is rooted in an earlier initiative, the Yale Minority Scientist Research Network (YMSRN), which Bennett initiated during his tenure as the Director of Minority Affairs for the BBS Graduate Program.

Reflecting on the structure of YBDIC, Bennett stated, "I am particularly proud of the unique model that YBDIC is built upon. This model, featuring four branches addressing broader objectives—Student Engagement, Student Empowerment, Outreach, and Student Advancement—is distinctively designed to provide inclusive opportunities and initiatives for all students.” Bennett underscores the innovative structure, stating, "This is a unique model here at Yale, and to the best of my knowledge, one that has not been duplicated elsewhere in the country at other PhD graduate programs."

Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Programs Karina Gonzalez Herrera, PhD, is a new co-advisor of YBDIC. She shared her perspective on the organization's impact, stating, "It is a privilege to work with the amazing group of student leaders serving as YBDIC fellows and to support the excellent efforts they are organizing. I am proud of the work the group has been doing and the multiple ongoing collaborations they have with other graduate student groups at YSM." She highlighted the collaborations with the Yale SACNAS chapter and the Women in Science at Yale (WiSAY) student group, emphasizing the positive impact of fostering a supportive and welcoming environment.

Gonzalez Herrera also shared about an upcoming YBDIC event she was looking forward to. “I am working with YBDIC to plan their second Annual Research Symposium, which will take place at the end of Spring 2024. We are looking forward to welcoming 30 undergraduate students from the local community to YSM. Students selected to participate in the symposium will have an interest in pursuing PhD. or MD-PhD degrees. The students will have the opportunity to connect with faculty and students at Yale to hear about the various pathway outreach programs and our PhD and MD-PhD programs at YSM. Throughout the symposium, the students will hear about how to prepare a strong application to our various research programs.”

Director of YBDIC Violet Kimball, a neuroscience PhD graduate student, shared what she is looking forward to most for YBDIC’s future. “Firstly, I look forward to witnessing an even more robust and interconnected community within the BBS, where every underrepresented student feels an unshakable sense of belonging and actively contributes to the collective growth. I'm excited about expanding our outreach efforts, not just in science-related initiatives, but also in forging partnerships and connections that extend our support network far beyond our immediate reach. Moreover, I anticipate seeing the tangible outcomes of our empowerment programs, such as mentorship initiatives and leadership development, as they pave the way for underrepresented students to excel in their academic pursuits and beyond. Ultimately, I'm enthusiastic about the YBDIC's ongoing journey towards becoming a beacon of inclusivity, empowerment, and academic excellence that inspires and uplifts generations of students to come.”

Bennett emphasized the wider YSM community's potential gains from engaging with YBDIC. "The YSM community should learn about YBDIC efforts as it will enhance collaboration and community between graduate students in the BBS and medical students whose communities form the bedrock of trainee activities through YSM,” he said. “A notable collaboration is our ongoing efforts in recruitment at national conferences where both YBDIC and the MD-PhD program work together to promote and recruit students to Yale.” Bennett also pointed out that YBDIC is in line and consistent with the YSM Diversity Strategic Plan, where the high-level goal is "To establish YSM as a destination academic home for women faculty and faculty from underrepresented groups and an institution where diversity and excellence are inextricably linked."

YBDIC stands as a testament to the transformative impact that a student-driven, innovative model can have on fostering inclusivity and community within academic institutions. As YBDIC continues to grow and evolve, its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion remains unwavering, inspiring positive change within YSM and beyond. To learn more and get involved with YBDIC, visit their website at

Submitted by Jasree Peralta on December 13, 2023