An NIH advocate who made himself heard
The National Institutes of Health's mission statement used to read, “NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.”
It now reads, “NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life and reduce illness and disability.” The phrase "the burdens of" has been removed. And for that, we can thank David Rice, a management analyst at the National Eye Institute.
Troubled by the implications of the mission statement, Rice raised the issue with Debra Chew, Director of NIH's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, last Fall. She brought this before Dr. Francis Collins, Director of NIH. He was "immediately agreeable to a change."
Rice, who's from Columbiana, a small town in Ohio, became deaf at age 4, and credits his parents for their "grace and integrity," and their "fire," which inspired him to become an advocate. They were supportive of him through his schools years and "made sure I got everything I needed."
He was mainstreamed, active in sports, student government, Key Club, and the homecoming court. He majored in Psychology at Catholic University of America, and entered the Deaf community when he started coaching baseball at MSSD.
He's a board member of Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Government (DHHIG). "My passion is in advocacy in not only the deaf community but towards disabilities as a whole."
"Overall, the experience [here at NIH] has been great; they are very open to deaf employees. Although there are many changes that are needed, they are always open ears and willing to listen.
"I take no credit for the new mission statement. All I did was raise questions and concerns. But I felt that my small change made a difference, and that alone is my lifelong goal—making small changes to create big impacts."