Publication Celebration: Defining the Race and Ethic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting by Jorge Jimenez

In this member spotlight we sit down with SACNISTA Jorge Jimenez who authored a memo in the Journal of Science Policy & Governance titled “Defining the Race and Ethic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting” for their special issue on focused on intersectional science policy.

Jorge Jimenez, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Bioengineering

What got you interested in the topic of racial categories in STEM?

My main research is bioengineering in ocular drug delivery so that we can improve FDA-approved therapies. I work on a rare disease called cystinosis. The eye drops to treat this usually have a shelf life of about a week and the patient has to apply 6–12 times per day, so we incorporated the eye drops into a gel that is retained for 24 hrs.

Working on rare diseases, I started looking into access for healthcare related to this disease. I recalled people saying that cystinosis is a “white person’s disease”, which dismissed the non-white people outside the western world. The eurocentric definitions of race and genetics are limiting the access that more marginalised people have to pharmaceuticals around the world.

At Pitt, I studied under Yvette Moore, who brings historically marginalized scholars to work on research projects. This is where I met my co-authors, Rene and Danesh. They asked me if I would meet with them to brainstorm how engineers can come together to discuss and solve healthcare issues we’ve felt in our own lives. We wanted to know more about how our tech is impacting people and how race is defined in algorithms.

When I saw JSPG’s policy competition, I thought it would be a way to find common language with each other and we were inspired to discuss the definitions of race in public policy.

How did you take care of yourselves through the process?

The best advice I have is to break it into manageable pieces. Save time for idea generation before you skip to the writing and have an outline that has domains and sections. If you don’t know how to write a policy memo, identify key people to help you out, find out what your team might be lacking, or just be open to learning (like I did in the case of learning the origins of algorithms).

Has being a SACNAS member helped you in your STEM journey? How?

There was a session at 2019 SACNAS that completely changed how I thought about my career trajectory. It was called, “It Takes All of Us to Keep Us Well: Reducing Health Disparities in our Communities” and the four panelists spoke to the research they were conducting in their own communities. I was really drawn to the biologist, Dr. Cathy Samayoa, who was looking at the prevalence of stress levels in Latino farmworkers in CA. It opened my eyes to see that my science could do something for my own community.

The term was “transdisciplinary”, and if I was an undergrad and I had seen this, I would have graduated with a biomedical degree and gone immediately into community-based research. I guess it’s not too late!

For anyone studying engineering at any level, I highly recommend the professional development available through SACNAS. You’ll find connections to your own studies and that adds novelty and a network.

Why did you want to write a science policy memo?

Honestly, I did this for Danesh and Rene. It was an honor to use the skill sets I was trained to do to work together. My goal was to get them through the journey. When we were selected for publication, I was in the mouse room and not checking my phone, but then we got the news and I think it blew their minds. It showed them what I knew already- that they were capable of the experiences.

You recently defended your PhD successfully, Jorge, what’s next for you?

I’m really interested in equitable teaching and combining public health with bioengineering, so I’m looking into academic spaces that are trans-disciplinary within healthcare. Carnegie Mellon has a strong public policy department and I have a friend who did their science policy track. Academia is really challenging to get into but it comes with freedom of intellect and a decent salary if you can cut it. Let’s just say if I don’t end up at the bench, I won’t be too sad.

Read Jorge’s policy memo in the Special Issue: https://www.sciencepolicyjournal.org/article_1038126_jspg180406.html

About this Series

In collaboration with SACNAS, 500 Women Scientists, and the National Society of Black Engineers, the Journal of Science Policy & Governance released a special issue focused on intersectional science policy. Three SACNAS members are among the authors and we sat down with them to learn more about their research, celebrate their achievement, and find out about their journey to publication.

To read memos by other SACNAS members, check out:

Motor Vehicle Crash Testing Regulations for More Inclusive Populations by Emilee Kotnik

Period Poverty, A Risk Factor for People Who Menstruate in STEM by Katherine Andersh, PhD

To read all the articles in the JSPG special issue, visit https://www.sciencepolicyjournal.org/jspgvol18iss04.html

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Dedicated to advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in science. Science, culture, and community in the movement for true diversity in STEM.