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AdamWende Adam Wende, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, and a member of the Department of Pathology's Diversity Task Force. This group meets regularly and includes representatives from around the department, including faculty, staff, and trainees. Here, Dr. Wende answers some questions about his experiences with diversity.

  • Where were you born and raised?

Near the southside of Chicago, in Hometown and Oak Lawn, IL, but I also have influences from living 4 years in rural Galesburg, IL; 6 years in St. Louis, MO; and 7 years in Salt Lake City, UT.

  • How long have you been at UAB and how did you come to be here?

I officially started at UAB in August of 2013, so now starting year 8. In 2010, I began looking for faculty positions and was focused on networking at meetings. I went to one meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada, the Society of Heart and Vascular Metabolism (SHVM). At that meeting I met Dr. John Chatham and he first introduced me to UAB. We continued to correspond about mutual research interests and talk at other meetings. Then he and Dr. Victor Darley-Usmar recruited me starting in 2011. The process took a while owing to receipt of an NIH K99R00, but UAB kept in contact, and despite going on the job market and interviewing at a few other places I realized UAB had all the people and resources I needed to start my career.

  • How has diversity impacted your personal life? 

Despite growing up near a major city like Chicago, I lived in a mostly white suburb. So, I did not have many, if any, close friends who did not look like me. However, upon entering college I started to meet and become friends with people from very different backgrounds as myself. This really helped me realize how great the world is and how the “spices” of life and our differences can enrich each other’s lives, while also working to find what we have in common can bring us closer together. Fun aspects of diversity in my life really continued to build during my postdoc years when the lab I worked in had potlucks each year where each person brought a dish they identified with from their culture (often 6 or more countries represented). It was great to not only taste the differences between each of us, but to talk about the stories behind the dishes.

  • Your career?

I find the diversity in an academic life to be so rewarding. In a world divided by so much misunderstanding it is great to have a job where there is almost never everyone from the same background. I often have conversations with people outside my career and find a lot of the struggle between groups is never meeting people of other backgrounds. Because of a life in the academic setting, I have been blessed to not only meet but to work alongside people from all over the world. This has taught me new and diverse ways to approach the problems I face in my job, and has provided me a great point of reference. This has been further expanded by international travel which has taught me a whole new level of understanding of diversity. Having grown up a white male in a mostly white environment, I have not often felt different. With travel, however, I have had the chance to immerse myself in other cultures and be the only one who looks like me at a meeting. I think this has provided me a slight glimpse into some of the racial tensions in our country and strengthens my desire to seek out answers and discussions about diversity. 

  • What is a change you’d like to see at UAB regarding diversity?

I have been happy with what I have seen relating to diversity at UAB and believe the powers that be are doing everything in their control to address these issues.

  • What is something you’re proud about relating to diversity and your UAB life?

For me it was receipt of a CHAAMPS pilot grant. I never thought I would be involved in diversity research, as a molecular biologist who mostly studied mouse models and cell culture. Moving into human tissue work and then the finding of something potentially unique to help explain why some individuals are more susceptible or resilient to different diseases really opened my eyes. A proud moment came when I was able to present our findings at the annual CHAAMPS meeting. Being part of that and having the chance in a safe environment to discuss topics that had up until that point been “off limits” really made me happy to be at UAB and grow my career in a brand new direction. 

  • What do you hope to gain from serving on this committee? How do you think it can assist the department as a whole?

I was initially surprised to have been asked to be on this committee. Coming from the majority group I thought the invite was a mistake. However, what I quickly came to realize is that we can only address issues of racial tension if everyone is involved in the discussion. Every side must make the effort to understand each other. I hope to gain experience in knowing how to approach and discuss these important topics and continue to work on it in the years to come. I think by having this committee and through its resulting efforts, the department will grow stronger in sensitivity and understanding.

  • What would you like others to know about you or your culture that will affect how they treat you here?

I was raised with the knowledge that all my family originated in Germany. I was also told throughout my childhood that the only reason we were Americans was that our ancestors decided to escape the Nazis during the World Wars. This understanding of my cultural past instilled an understanding and desire to do the right thing, and that when you can’t get somewhere, you can adapt in other ways.