Contact: Cecil Fong
OCA-Greater Houston Chapter
Phone: (832) 758-2442
May 8, 2019
LOCAL ASIAN AMERICAN ORGANIZATION SEEK CHANGES FROM MD ANDERSON REGARDING INVESTIGATIONS INVOLVING CHINESE AMERICAN RESEARCHERS
(Houston, Texas) May 8, 2019 - The OCA-Greater Houston Chapter calls upon MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson) to address community concerns that the investigations estimated to have affected at least 10 ethnic Chinese researchers lacked transparency and due process, thereby also lowering morale of colleagues.
“The process was not transparent,” said Cecil Fong, OCA-Greater Houston Chapter President. “Everyone was kept in the dark.”
Without any background understanding of the investigations, rumors circulated in the community, causing a sense of uncertainty and anxiety, said chapter member Helen Shih. Shih, a former faculty member at MD Anderson, still has colleagues in the cancer center.
“If the scientists had been informed and consulted in the process, they would feel that the environment is much more inclusive and supportive rather than one that leaves them exposed and vulnerable,” Shih added.
Fong also pointed out that “there was no avenue for grievances or appeal. … “You didn’t know the investigation process.” In the vacuum, Fong said that he felt that “the scientists were presumed guilty.”
According to Science magazine, the scientists who are under investigations have been unable to go to work for months, leaving projects under jeopardy of being transferred or funding being recalled. Fong said that the researchers did not know when they would be able to return, or whether they had to look for another job.
“It’s not the way to treat your highly valued scientists, said Fong. “They are all established scientists even prior to coming to MD Anderson. They brought MD Anderson research funding. They are very good performers.”
The chapter recognizes that there are FBI concerns about foreign influence in sensitive technologies which prompted the National Institute of Health to send a letter to its 10,000 grantees. At the same time, MD Anderson has discretion over the means to enforce agency rules and to protect the reputation of a group of scientists whose backgrounds naturally bring them into contact with their country of origin when the institution encourages overseas collaborations. According to Science, no one at MD Anderson has been charged with a federal crime.
Shih believes that MD Anderson can “re-establish a healthy and transparent environment while advancing scientific collaboration” as long as the process is improved upon.
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Established in 1979, the OCA-Greater Houston Chapter (OCA-GH), www.ocahouston.org, is the lead organization in Houston that serves the Asian American community. The chapter carries out programs/initiatives that advance four main goals: to advocate for social justice, equal opportunity and fair treatment; to promote civic participation, education, and leadership; to advance coalitions and community building; and to foster cultural heritage. Its parent organization, OCA-Asian American Advocates (formerly the “Organization of Chinese Americans”), www.ocanational.org, is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and networks 100+ chapters and college affiliates.