Rajeev Samant, Ph.D., is a Professor in the division of Molecular and 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. Samant answers some questions about his experiences with diversity.

  • Where were you born and raised?
    I was born in a small town located along the western cost of the state of Maharashtra, India. However, I was raised in the suburbs of Mumbai (Bombay), a populous city rich in culture.  
  • How long have you been at UAB and how did you come to be here?
  • My journey to UAB is a long one. I actually joined UAB twice. The first time I joined UAB it was in 2002 as an Instructor. I served in that capacity for about 18 months and then left only to return to UAB in 2012 as an Associate Professor. During both roles of instructor and associate professor, I was with the MCP division of the Department of Pathology.
  • In 2002, having just finished my Postdoctoral Fellowship in Hershey, Pennsylvania, I came to UAB hoping to expand my career options. Stepping into the faculty career ladder as an Instructor felt like the right decision for me, but I will say that many colleagues were concerned about me moving to “the South”. Despite concerns about “the South” and prejudice I might encounter there, UAB’s all-inclusive, highly collaborative and collegial work environment simply affirmed that this was the right place for me.

    Returning to UAB in 2012 was a simple decision as having grown in my career, I understood the importance and the benefits of working at a NCI designated CCC. So, joining back second time was a dream come true and MCP/Pathology was a welcome home to return to.  

  • How has diversity impacted your personal life? Your career? 

    I think diversity is determined by our surroundings. There is diversity everywhere and it manifests contextually. I grew up in India in the outskirts of a metropolitan city, Mumbai. Growing up, I was exposed to diversity in various forms: language, caste, religion, cuisine and even diversities less thought about like art and music. The most powerful form of diversity I came to understand was that of socioeconomic class.

    When I moved to the US, while these diversities existed, I witness a different kind of diversity - one that I had never experienced before personally, but had read about in history textbooks and heard about in the news - the diversity of race. I found that for the most part, people tend to be inclusive and tolerant. At least for me, in the US. for the most part life was “normal”.

    Immigrating to the US, I had always known that when one is in a different country, one will have several new experiences, and thus nothing was a big shock or a surprise—differences in thought and culture were to be expected.

    Growing up in India, arguably exposed me to a wide array of diversity that has shaped my life remarkably and for the better. I think there is a strength in diversity that is unmatched. As a scientist and a researcher, I find it appealing that everyone always has something unique to add to the overall process because of who they are and where they come from and what experiences they bring to the table. Simply put, I think diversity is an essential ingredient in the recipe for success.   

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

    UAB and MCP/Pathology are superb leading examples of how conscious decisions can allow an institution to be benefited by the strengths of diversity. We must always know that diversity is a dynamic entity, more so for an individual than an institution. For example, if I am in a room where I seem to be the “Odd man out”, that may pose as a challenge for me to function or express my opinions in such a way that would actually benefit both myself and UAB by allowing for fluid and dynamic well-informed discussion. Avoiding situations like this may not always be possible, but it is imperative that every effort be made to ensure that that situation does not present itself and if it does present itself, everyone at the table is cognizant of the situation and is trained in how to break down conversational barriers. While we aren’t 100% there yet, I really do think that UAB’s diversity and inclusion efforts are right on track to ensure this goal.

  • What have you gained from serving on this committee?

    At first, I was unclear and unsure as to what will serving on the committee would mean. In fact, I was surprised that we need to have a committee in such a diverse department and institution. Nonetheless, our Zoom meetings and discussions have taught me a lot.

    Insightful conversations and discussions with Drs. Marques, Litovsky, Fatima, Wende, Noubouossie, Feng, and McCleskey with added input from Cheryl Moore and Janiece Finkley really helped me see beyond my day-to-day box. As a committee, we have realized that there is always something to improve, and every small seemingly insignificant thing really does matter: What may be insignificant for one entity or a group may very well be the most important thing for another.

    I think sharing this realization with others and aiming to take steps prior to any task to be mindful of diversity yet geared towards achieving the best through the strength of diversity and inclusion is something that could really help assist this department in its aim to strive towards excellence.

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

    I do not have a specific aspect of my culture to highlight. But I would like to highlight something important about how to treat people. Building acceptance is a process. Knowing a little bit about any culture or attending a short talk may be a beginning, but it’s important to remember that these are just the foundation for awareness. Treating others ‘right’ and accepting them for who they are is always a two-way street. An active effort to treat all other individuals with the same gravity and respect that you would like to be treated, with a bit of awareness and forgiveness that everyone can’t be right at all time is what I have learnt from my exposure to ‘diversity’ thus far and is an important lesson that I think everyone can benefit from.