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'Humanity is at the heart of this'

Dr. Paul Buckley co-leads new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with Dr. Chris Li
A woman stands with two men
The newly created Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: DEI Program Manager Ana Parada, Administrative Director Dr. Paul M. Buckley and Faculty Director Dr. Chris Li Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Early last month, Dr. Paul M. Buckley stepped into the newly created role of administrative director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. With faculty co-director Dr. Chris Li, Buckley will spearhead the Hutch’s efforts to make our science and culture more inclusive and diverse.

“We were really looking to bring someone to the Hutch who could help elevate our work in this important area,” Li said, noting that the position was created just two years ago. Li stepped into the role of faculty director of DEI last year.

Supporting the efforts of the new office is a priority and critical to the Hutch’s mission, said Hutch Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Stadum.

“We're committed to taking active steps to ensure the Hutch is a welcoming and respectful workplace for all employees," he said. "The DEI office will coordinate our ongoing efforts to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion at Fred Hutch. We do our best science when we work collectively, and that includes fostering a workplace that’s diverse and inclusive of all. Paul’s passion, expertise and proven track record make him the ideal person to lead DEI efforts at the Hutch.”

Buckley comes from Colorado College, where in 2014 he was the inaugural director of the Butler Center, created to lead the college’s efforts in building a just and inclusive community. His success in building DEI programs, background in academia and deep knowledge of DEI issues — Buckley holds a Ph.D. in cultural foundations of education — made him the ideal candidate to further diversity, equity and inclusion at the Hutch, Li said.

“He’s somebody who brings a deep understanding of issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion and how we can address them. We are very fortunate to have recruited him here,” he said.

Cures start with the culture

“Cures start here, and cures start with a culture that fosters innovation, an inclusive culture that responds to diverse experiences and diverse expressions of disease,” Buckley said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion work is critical to the mission of Fred Hutch.”

His background has given him a broad lens for engaging with people from different backgrounds. Buckley was born to Jamaican parents in England, who moved back to Jamaica, and then to the U.S., when he was a child. He’s crossed the U.S., moving from New York, where he received his Ph.D. at Syracuse University, to New Hampshire where he was assistant dean of undergraduate students at Dartmouth College, to Colorado before arriving on the West Coast.

Through these travels, Buckley has engaged with DEI issues on both philosophical and practical levels, he said. And it comes down to people.

“Humanity is at the heart of this,” Buckley said. “The more I understand my connection to other human beings, the more humane I can be in my daily practices. … It is really critical for us to take actions that increase our capacity to express deeply our humanity and allow others to keep their human dignity.”

The Hutch’s mission to alleviate human suffering cannot be fulfilled if people who should be included in the research process, whether as scientist or patients, are left behind, Buckley said.

“Science informs how people live, how people will be healed and how people will die,” he said.

New Office of DEI

“Part of our goal [in the Office of DEI] is to help [the Hutch community] see how this informs your work and how you will pursue more excellent work if you engage in these frameworks,” Buckley said. “This office will serve as a coordinating and strategic touchstone around this work.”

Part of the Director’s Office, the new office formalizes DEI efforts currently under way around the Hutch, Li said.

“It’s recognition that this is work that applies to a broad range of activities here at the center,” he said. Buckley’s arrival, Li added, is an opportunity to take a critical look at how to strengthen and refresh the Hutch’s DEI strategies.

DEI efforts at the Hutch, which the new Office of DEI will support, will center around four core areas:

  • Research — Efforts within this area focus on addressing health disparities within cancer research, such as ensuring that clinical trials include patients from diverse backgrounds. This may include grant mechanisms to support projects and build teams aimed at reducing disparities.
  • Workforce development  In this pillar, efforts focus on recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff. The goal is to ensure that we have a more diverse workforce and that everyone within the Hutch community is supported in their career growth and advancement.
  • Workplace climate  Efforts here focus on ensuring that the culture is welcoming to all.
  • Community development  Here Buckley and Li will work with other Hutch colleagues to focus on strengthening ties with partner organizations in research, industry and the local community, to synergize with their DEI efforts and leverage existing partnerships to help build a diverse pipeline for diverse recruits. One goal within this pillar is to ensure that scientists and others outside the Hutch view us as an inclusive community that welcomes diversity.

“A number of groups at the Hutch have being doing great work in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion for many years, but there are opportunities to pursue this work in more collaborative ways,” Li said. “A major function of this office will be to synergize activities across different groups.”

A vision for the future

“Diversity, equity and inclusion work is very futuristic. So we have an aspiration for deeper, greater, more advanced programs than we have now,” Buckley said. “We all have a responsibility to engage in this work, wherever we sit in this organization.”

He’s already jumped in, meeting with leadership and stakeholders around the center. A near-term goal is to understand key data about Hutch faculty and staff demographics, as well as our recruitment and retention efforts. But numbers are not the end of the story, Buckley cautioned. He is concentrating on learning as much as he can about the perspectives and experiences of various members of the Hutch community, and what they need from the workplace climate and culture. His listening tour will continue through the spring, he said, as he and Li formulate a new DEI strategic plan.

That plan will build on the work of DEI Program Manager Ana Parada, who has provided DEI workshops and trainings to the Hutch community over the past year.

There has also been a focus on the faculty-recruitment process, Li noted, as the Hutch has implemented training on implicit bias for all search committees, begun requiring a diversity statement for all applicants and promoted the use of more structured rubrics for evaluating faculty candidates.

“The Hutch has an extraordinary mission to find a cure and alleviate human suffering,” Buckley said. “The principles of diversity, equity and inclusion will help us to develop policies and engage practices that will advance the effectiveness of the center’s work both internally and externally.”

Sabrina Richards, a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has written about scientific research and the environment for The Scientist and OnEarth Magazine. She has a Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Washington, an M.A. in journalism and an advanced certificate from the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University. Reach her at srichar2@fredhutch.org.

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Last Modified, March 18, 2020