BME Department Statement – Reflection on Current Events

Dear BME Family,

This has been a heartbreaking and painful time. The recent senseless and violent attacks against black citizens – George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor (to name a few) – have left us all hurt, disheartened, and angry. There are many more acts of violence and microaggressions towards our black friends and community members that go unreported. We have a long way to go in the fight against racism in our society.

I want to emphasize that UF BME stands united. We say decisively: Black people matter. Black students matter. Black educators matter. Black teammates matter. Black lives matter. 

Our BME community is one that strives to embrace and respect diversity. Our diversity makes us stronger as people and scientists. But that is not enough. We must individually and as a team, continue to have each other’s backs and speak up against racism. We must also exhibit grace and compassion as we learn and educate each other. As members of the broader BME community nationally, I encourage you to read the BMES society’s statement on diversity and inclusion.

What brings me hope is seeing what we have accomplished as a BME family. We recently hired four fantastic faculty members who will join our ranks soon. With those four faculty additions, we will have a faculty that is 52% female and 22% underrepresented minorities. Our graduate students are 47% women and 14% underrepresented minorities. These numbers are encouraging, particularly for engineering. But we can do better, and we will.

I know it is not about the numbers. It is about the people! I love hearing your individual stories, getting hugs or high fives (when we could do this!), and helping you celebrate your successes. Each one of you is part of our family. If you need help or want to be heard, reach out to me. I will find time to talk.

Each of us has the privilege of having made it to where we are today – getting into graduate school, a postdoc position or faculty position is no easy feat. Not everyone has been or will be so fortunate. I ask that as you succeed, you pay it forward! Provide opportunities for someone else not as fortunate. With our privilege, we can open doors and help further build our diverse community. Your active participation in student organizations, student recruiting, outreach, and advocacy can all help when you speak up against acts of racism and also bring someone else to the table or into the conversation.

I wish to thank and acknowledge our student leaders of the BME Diversity and Inclusion Initiative – they worked tirelessly to organize and lead an impactful and well-attended BME Diversity and Inclusion Group Zoom Meeting on Friday June 5, and they have also spearheaded so many other important initiatives in the past.  It was nice to see everyone (graduate and undergraduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty) at the June 5 meeting, and to have a safe forum for people to express their fears, concerns, and wishes. I loved hearing that many of you felt supported, seen, and understood by students and faculty in the department. This is so important. Having a safe space to speak on these issues is invaluable. Please join our Diversity and Inclusion Initiative at the next meeting. Again, we must have each other’s backs and listen to each other. Please reach out to your colleagues to make sure they are doing well.

Also, if needed, feel free to reach out to Dr. Ayse Gunduz, our BME Diversity Officer, Dr. Sarah Rowlinson, our BME SafeZone+ faculty representative, or the BME Diversity and Inclusion student leaders.

As we strive to take action, please also contribute to our #WEWILL initiative google doc:

A few additional resources that may be helpful during this challenging time:

Please, be safe and take care of yourselves.

Christine Schmidt
Department Chair
J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering