Coyote-Maestas Affiliated Outreach, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work

Willow Coyote-Maestas is mixed race (Jicarilla Apache Native descendent, Xicano, and White) and has been the direct beneficiary of support for underrepresented minorities at the undergraduate, graduate, and fellow stage. Being a part of diverse cohorts of brilliant scientists, particularly the HHMI Gilliam Program inspired Willow to try to make science supportive and inclusive to people from diverse backgrounds as well as work to make it so benefits of scientific discovery and breakthroughs are more broadly shared. Below is a small sampling of some of the work Willow is involved in.

Full Circle Native in Biology Symposium

Native Americans are massively underrepresented within science for many reasons. A fundamental challenge to Native scientists is many of us never meet another Native American within our disciplines. With a team of UCSF staff, students, and faculty, Willow organized a basic biology-focused event, The Full Circle Native Symposium, which was the first of its kind symposium for Native discovery biologists. Full Circle aims to build community amongst Native scientists, provide a platform to present work, and give trainees meaningful opportunities. In 2021, we virtually brought together nearly 20 Native scientists from across the country and tribes, including undergraduates, grad students, postdocs, junior, and elder (emeritus) faculty. Our second Full Circle Symposium was held in-person at UCSF in January 2023, in which we brought together over 20 Native scientists from across the country and from different tribes. Thus far this symposium has provided a much needed space and community for Native scientists to share their identities and science.

Full Circle 2023

Moving forward, we are exploring how to start holding this event in other areas of the country where there are larger Native populations with support from institutions within those communities

Atlas of Variant Effect Outreach, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

One of our primary research foci is to characterize the impact of genetic variation on human disease and pharmacology. Because this goal is too large for a single research group, an international consortium, the Atlas of Variant Effect, was formed to guide these efforts. However, genetics, in general, and the study of genetic variation in disease, have a dark history interwoven with eugenics and exploitation of Black and Native/Indigenous people. In contrast, the beneficiaries of genetics and precision medicine have been predominantly people of European ancestry. As such, we must be careful with how we approach our studies, that diverse perspectives and people are involved in the studies, and that translational benefits of mutational scanning reach all people. For these reasons and my experience in DEI work outlined above, Willow is a founding and continuing co-director of AVE’s Outreach, Diversity, and Inclusions Committee. The committee’s goals are to diversify the field, demonstrate how unbiased mutational scanning can address inequities in precision medicine, and start a discussion on how to center DEI within our research.