Empowering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Week at the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference

When I joined the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) as the new Community Outreach Manager, I was drawn to the Agency’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Some DEI achievements include: 

  • Requiring plans for inclusion of diverse or underserved demographic groups in CIRM-funded clinical trials 
  • Providing valuable educational opportunities in regenerative medicine for students and young professionals from backgrounds that reflect the diverse communities of the state 
  • Creating the world’s largest single repository of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), containing over 2,600 cell lines from individuals of diverse ancestries 

I was thrilled at the opportunity to attend the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM conference, an event that aims to equip, empower, and energize participants for their academic and professional paths in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) 

The Conference 

SACNAS—also known as the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science—is an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM. 

I was joined at the conference by Kelly Shepard, PhD, the Associate Director of Scientific Programs, and Barbara Des Rochers, PhD, the Program Director for the CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research program at Berkeley City College.  

Sessions at the conference covered a variety of important topics, including SACNAS’s history, the importance of diverse representation in STEM, peer and self-empowerment, and storytelling in scientific communication.  

The opening presentation by SACNAS Executive Director, Juan Amador, FASAE, CAE, was empowering and showcased a great example of dedication to DEI. Amador discussed the political landscape and how changes in policies are dramatically changing the diversity among STEM education tracks and fields. Amador noted that the mission of SACNAS, which was established to close the gap of representation, is just as important now as it was when SACNAS was born in 1973. 

Through the various sessions, I gained an understanding of the importance of scientific communication and how representing intersectional identities in the information we share encourages empathy towards science. Speakers also shared useful tips to engage community members, solicit emotions, and deliver a clear call to action for the audience.  

SFSU CIRM trainees from Bridges Science Master’s Program and COMPASS-Inclusive Pathways for Stem Cell Undergraduate Scholars Training Program and Program Director Lily Chen attended the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference, October 26-28, 2023, at the Portland Convention Center Oregon.

Applying Skills at CIRM

The skills I learned at the SACNAS conference will be crucial as we communicate with diverse communities about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and training opportunities for researchers and students. CIRM continues to put DEI at the forefront, and I look forward to supporting the team with new ideas and strategies to provide more opportunities to diverse communities in regenerative medicine. 

To learn more about CIRM’s dedication to DEI, explore our 2022-2023 annual report here