Dear Members of the American Physiological Society (APS) Community:

Watching the devastating scenes that have taken place this past week have left us heartsick for the nation and especially for the Black citizens of this country. While America’s tragic history of racism and inequity is hardly new, the combination of the coronavirus pandemic—which has disproportionately affected people of color—combined with the senseless, brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the racist incident directed at birdwatcher Christian Cooper in New York's Central Park starkly remind us just how far we still have to go. 

The protests around the country reflect centuries of unfair treatment, compounded by decades of increasing racial tension. It is not surprising that many in the Black community are angry. We should all be angry. We need systemic change and personal transformation. We need to make far more progress, far more quickly. As sad and stressful as this is for all of us, we are particularly aware that Black APS members are likely feeling this much more acutely. Together, the entire APS community stands in solidarity with you.

Despite trying to base our careers on objectivity, science is unfortunately not immune to the systemic racism that supports inequity. We recognize this, and as such, APS has had a long-standing commitment to addressing inequity through initiatives like the Porter Physiology Development Fellowship, the Martin Frank Diversity Travel Awards program and the A. Clifford Barger Underrepresented Minority Mentorship Award that recognizes faculty committed to advocacy of underrepresented minorities in physiology. While this is a start, we have more work to do to be a more equitable and inclusive Society. We are in the process of piloting new initiatives that include:

  • providing diversity and inclusion training for all staff and APS committee members;
  • expanding the diversity of the APS Council, committees and section leadership;
  • expanding and strengthening mentorship programs to build a pipeline of tomorrow’s scientific leaders of color;
  • working with organizers and selection committees to expand the diversity among APS marquee award winners and speakers at APS conferences;
  • launching a diversity and inclusion symposium; and
  • developing resources to empower individuals to create more inclusive workplaces.

We will be soliciting member feedback in an APS inclusivity climate survey later this year and look forward to your honest opinions. We believe this is still not enough. We encourage you to contact us with ideas and suggestions for making our Society a safe and inclusive space for all of our members.

Enacting change cannot occur solely at the level of infrastructure. We also encourage you to reflect on recent events with us and cultivate inclusive environments in your laboratories, classrooms, universities and institutions.

APS is a diverse collection of individuals who bring a host of life experiences, values and beliefs to bear on our work and with our colleagues. This diversity makes us smarter, drives more innovative discovery and makes a greater difference in the world. Critical thinking and problem solving are at the heart of what we do as scientists. Imagine the impact we could have if we apply these talents towards creating a more inclusive American Physiological Society and United States.

With hope and respect,

Linda C. Samuelson, PhD, FAPS, FAAAS
University of Michigan 
APS President

Karla Haack, PhD
Kennesaw State University
Chair, APS Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Scott Steen, CAE, FASAE
APS Executive Director