Racism, structural racism, and the American Association for Anatomy: Initial report from a task force

Dale R. Sumner, Sabine Hildebrandt, Allison Nesbitt, Melissa A. Carroll, Vassiliki B. Smocovitis, Jeffrey T. Laitman, Amy C. Beresheim, Christopher J. Ramnanan, Michael L. Blakey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In 2021, the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) Board of Directors appointed a Task Force on Structural Racism to understand how the laws, rules, and practices in which the Association formed, developed and continues to exist affect membership and participation. This commentary is the first public report from the Task Force. We focus on African Americans with some comments on Jews and women, noting that all marginalized groups deserve study. Through much of its 130 year history, some members were an essential part of perpetuating racist ideas, the Association largely ignored racism and had some practices that prevented participation. The Task Force concluded that individual and structural racism within the AAA, combined with the broader social context in which the Association developed, contributed to the current underrepresentation of African Americans who constitute 4.1% of the membership even though 13.4% of the U.S. population is Black. Intentional efforts within the AAA to reckon with racism and other forms of bias have only begun in the last 10–20 years. These actions have led to more diverse leadership within the Association, and it is hoped that these changes will positively affect the recruitment and retention of marginalized people to science in general and anatomy in particular. The Task Force recommends that the AAA Board issue a statement of responsibility to acknowledge its history. Furthermore, the Task Force advocates that the Board commit to (a) sustaining ongoing projects to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion and (b) dedicating additional resources to facilitate novel initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)772-787
Number of pages16
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


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