International Day of Women and Girls on Science: a tribute to Dr. Mathilde Krim

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09/02/2018

International Day of Women and Girls on Science: a tribute to Dr. Mathilde Krim

Gender bias affects all areas of society and sustains inequality throughout the world. In 2015, UNESCO declared the International Day of Women and Girls on Science to acknowledge the gender gaps that insidiously persist in the scientific community. Poor career progression and the “glass ceiling” for representation of senior women leaders in science, medicine, and global health are well documented (1). Moreover, actions to overcome this inequality are not moving fast enough. Only in the last years, prestigious journals encouraged studies specifically looking into new solutions for this old problem (1). Multiple actions might be needed, but recognizing the work of great women that led our way and committed their careers to transform society may offer the gender-positive role models required to speed up the movement towards gender equality in Science.

An extraordinary example is the one set by Dr. Mathilde Krim, who recently passed away leaving behind an incredible legacy dedicated to the fight against the HIV epidemic. Dr. Krim held a doctorate in biology from the University of Geneva and conducted postdoctoral research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where she was part of the team that first developed a cytogenetic prenatal test for sex discernment. She was later faculty at the Cornell Medical College and then moved to the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she was head of the Interferon Lab. She was also professor at Columbia University.

From the very beginning of the HIV epidemic, Dr. Mathilde Krim committed herself to fight against HIV and was a Founding Chairman of the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). amfAR raises funds for international HIV research programs and has received prestigious prizes such as the Príncipe de Asturias a la Concordia. In 2008, amfAR established the Mathilde Krim Fellowships to support the nascent careers of promising young HIV/AIDS researchers.

In 2013, I was selected as one of the recipients of this fellowship, allowing me to pursue novel scientific challenges and consolidate my line of research at times where budgets suffer from drastic cuts. Most importantly, the fellowship boosted my independent scientific path, where I now serve as a mentor for PhD students that expand the workforce to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

I truly believe that research has the power to transform society and overcome some of the biggest challenges humankind faces. Basic research holds the potential to end with HIV and to finally find a cure for millions of people who are infected around the world, but along the way, the scientific community has to act as one to achieve gender equality. The inspiring life and the legacy of Dr. Mathilde Krim beautifully illustrate why we cannot afford a continued loss of women in Science

 

References:

1. Clark J, Zuccala E, Horton R (2017) Women in science, medicine, and global health: call for papers. Lancet 390: 2423-2424.

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