Dr. Angela Byars-Winston is
studying the impact of the crucial
relationship on racial and ethnic
diversity in STEM fields.
Dr. Angela Byars-Winston Is First Black
Full Professor at UW Medicine
The department also put in place the Centennial Scholars Program, which is an internal fellowship program that gives promising scholars the
chance to transition into the department and lay the foundation for their future research.
“The fellowship is competitive and supports 8-10 faculty who are either themselves from underrepresented groups in the sciences and clinical
research or are directly involved in issues around cultural disparities and health and research. That buys out protected time for faculty for up to
three years. They are able to focus on research, get a little bit faster onto their publications. Those are pretty innovative things that cost money.
For the dean to put money I internally really says something. I was supported by that a few years ago as I was transitioning into the Department
of Medicine. That protected some of the time I had to get grants going, to start doing some amazing work, which is part of the foundation for my
promotion, the work that I have been able to do.”
And within this environment, it was also important for Byars-Winston to have a champion who could help guide her through the institution as
she was laying the foundation for her work.
“Dr. Molly Carnes is the director of the center,” Byars-Winston said. “She is an M.D. She is a geriatrician and has been at the UW-Madison for
over 30 years. She is an amazing force of nature who along with several critical leaders on this campus over the past two decades has been
addressing equity and inclusion in STEM, specifically for female faculty and in general faculty of color. She has helped establish not only this
center, but also the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership, which really helps to promote women in faculty positions in STEM. She’s
developed WISCAMP, which is an NSF funded initiative statewide housed here to promote undergraduate racial and ethnic minority students in
STEM. She is really about change. We’re talking about someone who is putting their hands on the shoulders of folk and mentoring them and
coaching them through career stages. I’m one of those people who has benefitted from that. When I was transitioning out of education, she said,
‘Here’s a place for you to land and keep doing the work that you are doing in this center.’”
It is these ingredients that have allowed Byars-Winston to flourish at the Dept. of Medicine as well as conduct research that will assist
underrepresented racial and ethnic individuals to flourish in STEM fields.
One of the most crucial relationships in education is the teacher-student or mentor-mentee relationship through which crucial information and
perspectives are transferred. If there are factors that interfere with that relationship — that create distance — the educational or mentoring
opportunity will be less effective, especially if it is racial and ethnic differences that create the gulf. Byars-Winston’s research is poised to
strengthen those relationships so that racial and ethnic individuals can have successful academic and professional careers in science.
Next issue: Byar-Winston’s research
By Jonathan Gramling
Diversity in the workplace rarely happens on its own. Most often, there must be a conscious effort to
diversify a workplace using scientific methods overtly or covertly — analyzing the problem, collecting
data, making a hypothesis and implementing the solution — in order for the change to occur.
And nowhere is that more important than in fields and industries that rely upon STEM — science,
technology, engineering and math — as our society depends more and more on STEM-trained individuals
to solve complex problems facing society. And in a nation that is changing demographically, increasingly,
it will need to rely upon more people of color entering the STEM fields to succeed in the global economy.
Dr. Angela Byars-Winston, the first African American to become a tenure-track, full professor in the UW-
Madison Department of Medicine, is on the cutting edge of efforts to bring more students of color into
STEM fields and have them succeed within the field. She is a member of the UW Center for Women’s
Health Research. And in some ways, she is giving back for the diversity efforts within her department that
allowed her to flourish and attain her present position.
“Our department has been making strides,” Byars-Winston said. “I think our department chair, Rick Page,
is an amazing leader and is really a conscious person about having an inclusive excellence perspective
on faculty talent. As we think about growing all of the position scientists, who are mostly M.D.s, Ph.D.s
and social scientists like myself, that we also think about having the composition of the faculty look like
the folks whom we serve and reflect the city that we live in.”