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Follow the Data Podcast: Increasing Diversity in STEM Fields

The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative at the Johns Hopkins University will address historic underrepresentation in STEM fields.

National Science Foundation data shows that while Black Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, and Latinx people 18 percent, in 2019 they received just three and seven percent, respectively, of new engineering, math, physical sciences and computer science PhDs.

This spring, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University launched the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative – an effort to address underrepresentation in STEM fields and prepare the next generation of researchers and scholars to assume leadership roles in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. The program will create pathways for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as Minority Serving Institutions, to pursue and receive PhDs, and is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative – an effort to increase intergenerational Black wealth and address systemic underinvestment in Black communities.

The initiative is named after Vivien Thomas – a Black surgical laboratory supervisor who developed a life-saving cardiac surgery technique to treat “blue baby syndrome” at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1940s. Despite his life-saving research, Thomas’s contributions went unrecognized for decades because of racial discrimination.

Damani Piggott, the inaugural Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Diversity and Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, the President of Spelman College, sit down with Garnesha Ezediaro of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Greenwood Initiative to discuss Vivien Thomas’ legacy, how we can ensure diverse scholars in the future, and why it’s important to create pathway programs to prepare the next generation of leaders in STEM fields.

You can listen to the podcast and past episodes in the following ways:

For more about our Greenwood Initiative, we recommend: