-CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER ’ S MESSAGE
Diversity , Equity & Inclusion :
We Have a Stake in the Conversation
Laboratories test specimens . And all specimens are equal in our eyes . Even though as public health laboratorians we know that each specimen represents a person , we treat every specimen equally .
But early in the pandemic , we noticed that the laboratory data coming in was missing certain demographic indicators . Indicators such as race and ethnicity have been critical for us to understand how COVID-19 is impacting different communities . For the first time , we had real-time data that told us there were testing inequities and , sometimes , even “ testing deserts ” in certain geographic areas — areas which , when pooled with other public health data , have been seen to be chronically underserved or underrepresented .
This was an “ a-ha ” moment for me on multiple levels . I saw what was happening across the country and , indeed , in our own backyard . And while I have always known that there is a direct connection between the work that public health laboratories do and the health of the communities they serve , this was the first time on a massive scale that the general public could see the important role that testing and laboratory diagnostics have in addressing health inequities .
I was very proud when , in the middle of the pandemic response , APHL President Bill Whitmar stood up a Diversity , Equity & Inclusion ( DEI ) Task Force . The association has also created its own internal DEI Task Force for APHL staff . We had routinely included a DEI component on our strategic map , but we had never really prioritized it until last summer . Both task forces are helping us to become more comfortable with being a laboratoryfocused public health organization that has a voice in social justice issues .
And make no mistake … we do have a voice . Our mission as public health scientists is to protect our communities . And we have made public statements to that fact . We do have a role to play in social and environmental justice , whether it is ensuring that STD samples are testing in a timely manner or ensuring the safety of the food we eat and the integrity of the supply chain . We need to change the way we think about our role in public health — as a result of the pandemic , the stakes are even higher .
In our 2021-2023 strategic map , which has been approved by the Board of Directors , we include the cross-cutting goal of shaping the public health laboratory system ’ s role in DEI . This means that it will be integrated into all of our other objectives and actions over the next few years . We have also added DEI-specific components to our APHL Core Values , which every employee will be evaluated on during their biannual review .
When I see that some organizations choose to have a moment of silence , I like to think our mission as a public health association requires that we look at it differently . I do not want us to have a moment of silence — I want there to be a moment of action . “ Analysis , Answers , Action ” permeates our DNA as an organization , and I am enormously grateful to our members and staff that have contributed to starting what will be a long conversation that will never really end . n
Scott Becker , MS Chief Executive Officer , APHL
We do have a role to play in social and environmental justice , whether it is ensuring that STD samples are testing in a timely manner or ensuring the safety of the food we eat and the integrity of the supply chain .”