October 20, 2021

Caucus on Black Women and Girls Co-Chairs Urge President to Appoint Black Woman to Head NIH

Washington, DC (October 22, 2021) - Today, the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to nominate a Black woman to succeed Dr. Francis S. Collins as Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH). The NIH Director plays a substantial role in shaping the agency's research, planning, and activities across twenty-seven institutes and centers to combat major health threats like covid-19 and other infectious diseases, including mental illness and cancers.

Black Americans continue to fare the worst in health statistics, including in physical and mental health status; birth risks, infant mortality rates, maternal mortality and morbidity, including HIV and AIDS diagnosis and death rates. Although the leading causes of death for African Americans have decreases since the late 90s, Black Americans are still more likely to die at early ages from all health causes. As such, a Black woman must have a seat at the NIH table in helping shape research, planning and execution. 

The letter reads, in part:  

A Black woman who is deeply experienced in researching diseases and disorders in historically marginalized communities. A Black woman who is committed to leading from a standpoint of equity. She is the person most qualified to spearhead the next phase of NIH initiatives as we move exponentially to address the unprecedented needs of the 21st century. In moving beyond diversity and inclusion toward more fair and balanced solutions, the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls asks that you devise a panel of equity-focused public health professionals, who are women of color, to assist in identifying an appropriate candidate for this position."

The letter lists several highly qualified candidates including a city health Commissioner, Vice Presidents of public health organizations and public health professors.  

The Caucus on Black Women and Girls was founded in 2016 by Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Robin Kelly (IL-2), and Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09). It is the first caucus aimed at bringing both the tremendous challenges and incredible successes of Black women to the fore in Congress’s policy debates.


Click here to read the letter in full.