Reese Publishes Paper on the Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Science Education

Published on 25 June 2020

The Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education, a publication of The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), recently featured an article written by Amy J. Reese, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, highlighting the innovative Science, Ethics and Society junior-level elective course that she developed for the College.

“Diversity and inclusion are issues that I have focused on throughout my career as a professor, and I am excited to share my methods and discoveries with my peers,” Reese explained. “This article explains the origin of my course, the topics we cover and the students’ anonymous feedback on the course. It is included in an edition of the journal dedicated to teaching methods that promote diversity and inclusion, and I’m honored that it was chosen to be featured.”

Reese was inspired to create the course based on her belief that students become more effective scientists and health care practitioners when they are pushed to move beyond learning basic scientific principles and examine the complex ways in which science and scientists interact with the larger world.

Reese’s course surveys a wide range of cultural issues, from the way science and scientists are portrayed in popular media, to the ethical issues surrounding scientific research, to health disparities and other issues of diversity and inclusion regarding who is conducting important research and what groups are being included in that research.

“Before coming to the College, I taught at an all-women’s institution, and a colleague and I originally developed a similar course to help our students navigate their future careers as women scientists,” Reese explained. “When I came to the College, I wanted to create a new course that would cover a number of subjects beyond gender. In this class, students learn how cultural biases, assumptions and practices affect the way science is both practiced and perceived.”

Reese says students have reacted positively to the course over the years, describing it in written feedback as an eye-opening experience that has encouraged them to think critically about the discrepancies that are present in science and society today, especially pertaining to race, gender and disabilities.

“In my course, we focus on many aspects of the relationship between science and diversity, including how the quality of scientific research is affected by diversity and inclusion,” Reese explained. “I’ve highlighted studies that have demonstrated that research teams with diverse backgrounds actually produce better results than research teams that are mainly homogenous. When members of a team can provide a variety of unique perspectives, they bring more questions and more solutions to the table.”

The information provided in Reese’s course is designed to help future pharmacy students prepare for their professional studies, which include a co-curricular requirement for social awareness and cultural sensitivity coordinated by Isaac Butler, Pharm.D., MBA, vice president for career services and education and chief diversity officer. Butler certifies faculty and staff in diversity and inclusion through the National Conference for Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis (NCCJ St. Louis). As an NCCJ-certified instructor, Reese actively engages with faculty in the School of Pharmacy to train student pharmacists to develop the cultural sensitivity they need to be well-rounded care providers.

“Students who take my elective are better prepared for the professional program’s curriculum on diversity and inclusion,” Reese explained. “In my course, they develop the tools they need to understand how issues surrounding diversity, inclusion and equity affect patient care. Students also learn how these issues impact  their role as health care providers. Understanding how society and culture affects science and health care will make them better practitioners, too.”

Reese was asked to create an abbreviated version of the article as a spotlight piece for ASM’s website, available here. The full text is also available here.

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