Volume 35 Number 3 | June 2021

Angela Darby, MPH, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Region III Director

Angela DarbyIn her recent Golden Globes acceptance speech, Jane Fonda made the following remarks: “There’s a story that we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves … a story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out … stories about who is offered a seat at the table and who is kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.” The following is a story about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and how it has and continues to make strides towards diversity and inclusion.

Danny Thomas was having trouble finding work as an entertainer. He prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, saying, “show me my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.” In 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was opened, with the mission that “no child shall die in the dawn of life.” St. Jude has become one of the premier children’s cancer hospitals in the world, treating both cancer and other catastrophic diseases of childhood, such as sickle cell disease. Due to research and treatment protocols conducted at St. Jude, a 94 percent survival rate for patients, with ALL using therapy that does not include radiation, has been achieved.

One of the things that is also remarkable about St. Jude is its commitment to diversity. When the hospital opened in 1962, Memphis was still heavily segregated. Danny Thomas had a vision of everyone coming together—patients, physicians, researchers—no matter their race. The hospital cafeteria was desegregated, unheard of during that time, offering everyone a literal seat at the table. Fast forward to March 2018, when the LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, PRIDE (People Respecting Individuality Diversity and Equality), was formed.

The Employee Resource Group is open to all employees, regardless of whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or as an ally. PRIDE focuses on activities around campus that bring awareness, such as grand rounds regarding patient care of LBGTQ+ individuals, presentations by guest speakers, and coffee chats for anyone interested in learning more. They have become very visible on campus by creating and distributing several rainbow lanyards and pins to employees and assisting programs around campus with making their recruiting processes more diverse and gender inclusive. The group became involved in the Mid-South PRIDE festivities in 2018—the first time that the hospital publicly endorsed its commitment to LGBTQ+ employees.

St. Jude has also created a Department of Diversity and Inclusion. One of the most recent activities of the department was the screening of the documentary, Picture a Scientist, which was an official selection of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival and tells the story of three women at different stages of their careers in research.

A member of the Pathology Diversity Committee, CJ Trahan, stated this about the council: “We aim to build on Danny Thomas’ vision for St. Jude, of a hospital that would treat all children, regardless of race, color, creed, or socioeconomic status, attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse workforce, and cultivating an inclusive institution that delivers the best care to our diverse patient population.”

As we all know, the field of medical laboratory science is very diverse. Because of this, there is a great need for every voice to be heard, acknowledged, and respected. This also applies to our professional Society. ASCLS represents the members of the profession, and as such should reflect the diversity of our members in its activities and actions. The creation of PRISM: Pride · Respect · Inclusion · Support · Momentum this past January was a first step towards bringing awareness of the need for diversity for our members, and most importantly for our leaders.

As James Downing, MD, CEO of St. Jude, stated, “A focus on diversity and inclusion will enhance engagement across our diverse workforce and better serve the patients and families we treat. Embracing these ideals will enable us to harness the strengths and unique potential of every individual.” We must all become committed to creating a culture of diversity and to providing a seat at the table.

Angela Darby is Coagulation Technical Specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital LGBTQ Pride Month virtual background

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital provides free LGBTQ Pride Month virtual backgrounds for Zoom and WebEx. The artwork above was created by St. Jude patient Marleigh.

“ASCLS represents the members of the profession, and as such should reflect the diversity of our members in its activities and actions.”