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The New York Genome Center Welcomes Heather Lewis, EdD, As Inaugural Director Of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

New York, NY  ·  June 20, 2023
Heather Lewis poses in front of Central Park

Since its inception in 2012, the New York Genome Center (NYGC) has committed itself to diversifying the life sciences through building an inclusive research and training environment. Today, in support of that commitment, the NYGC is proud to announce Heather Lewis, EdD, as the Center’s inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Research Initiatives.

“I am pleased that Heather Lewis has become our inaugural Director of DEI and Research Initiatives. Her knowledge, passion, and commitment to DEI will lead the NYGC in fostering an inclusive and equitable environment where every member feels valued and empowered. Together, we strive for scientific excellence that promotes collaboration and unlocks the full potential of our diverse community. This is a crucial step towards furthering the NYGC’s commitment to DEI and embracing diversity as the catalyst for groundbreaking innovation,” says Tom Maniatis, NYGC’s Evnin Family Scientific Director and CEO.

Dr. Heather Lewis has been a key asset in the NYGC’s growth since she joined the Center over three years ago as Director of Research Administration. Shortly after joining NYGC, Dr. Lewis co-founded NYGC’s DEI Advisory Group (DEIAG) and has led the NYGC community in several DEI initiatives, including assisting faculty with obtaining DEI-related funding, designing and analyzing a workplace culture survey, selecting DEI-related training advisors, and launching an annual summer internship program to foster the next-generation talent in STEM.

In her new role, Dr. Lewis plans to spearhead NYGC’s DEI efforts in STEM at a strategic level. She will develop and lead DEI programs and cultural education for the NYGC community while fostering and cultivating a supportive, welcoming, and diverse workplace culture. “DEI doesn’t start and end with my role; it is a collaborative effort from everyone at the Center,” she adds.

A listening tour is Dr. Lewis’ first move towards sustaining that collaborative effort within the NYGC community. Using the results of the 2023 Workplace Culture Survey as her guide, her goal is to connect with NYGC’s Senior Leadership, faculty, and staff on how to implement change within the workplace.

“The objective of the listening tour is to engage with NYGC’s community on what works and what doesn’t, and from there design the DEI initiatives to be more proactive than reactive,” says Dr. Lewis. “At NYGC, we agree that DEI is important. The Center has a rich international culture, and the staff have volunteered their time, resources, and talent towards making DEI a principal pillar of the organization. Their activism and advocacy speaks to the genuine passion of our community,” she adds.

That passion is evident through the DEIAG at the Center, but Dr. Lewis believes appointing a full-time Director of DEI provides NYGC with the opportunity to invest even more time, resources, and energy into projects. She feels invigorated by the chance to set realistic DEI goals and see them through to completion.

To accomplish these goals, Dr. Lewis will call upon both her lived and professional experience. Her educational background includes a BS in Liberal Arts, an MS in Education, and an EdD in Mental Health Counseling with a focus on a phenomenological study of Afro-Caribbean Christians’ help-seeking tendencies. She believes her interpersonal connection to the role paired with her knowledge on the importance of advocacy in counseling will provide her the ability to ensure the Center is supporting its staff through the proper policies and procedures. “Success is measured by the amount of trust the organization places in DEI strategies,” says Dr. Lewis. “It will be evident in the way our teams feel about the work they do with their colleagues at the NYGC.”

As organizations implement more DEI strategies, Dr. Lewis advises young professionals to take initiative when it comes to DEI efforts at their organizations. “Lend your passions to your DEI groups, immerse yourself in other cultures, and expand your professional network,” she says. “But most importantly, treat others with respect.”

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