When he first arrived in Iowa in 2016, Antentor Hinton planned to stay in the Midwest for two or three years.
“But I realized sometimes you need that great Midwest experience to really cultivate a career,” says Hinton, PhD. “In Iowa City, you can be who you are and be safe. You can be Black, you can be straight, you can be gay, you can be Latinx. People will see you as an individual and let you grow.”
As a postdoctoral research fellow working with Dale Abel, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, Hinton began looking beyond the lab for places he could make a difference in the lives of students and postdocs from diverse backgrounds. In addition to fulfilling his own research and career goals, he began serving as an academic and career development instructor in the UI Carver College of Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
Nicole Del Castillo, MD, MPH, director of the college’s DEI office, says Hinton became a premier mentor in the biomedical sciences, demonstrating excellence in teaching, scholarly activities, and diversity outreach.
“He has been instrumental for the office’s recruitment for the UI College of Medicine,” says Del Castillo. “His trainings to students around the country provide information about critical career development strategies.”
For his commitment and his efforts Hinton received the inaugural University of Iowa Health Care DEI Leadership Award. He was honored in June during the college’s Culturally Responsive Health Care in Iowa conference.
“I was elated that my work and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion was being recognized, and I felt extremely honored,” Hinton says. “I’m happy individuals are noticing the work but also using this progress to transform academia. That’s the most important focus.”
Inspiring diversity in science
Hinton speaks with pride about the students and postdoctoral researchers he’s mentored, but he doesn’t consider himself a master mentor.
“I recognize myself more as a person that’s evolving and learning how to be more productive, more thoughtful, and more culturally aware of other people’s cultures and values,” he explains. “Practicing cultural competency matters to me.”
As part of his role with the college’s DEI office, Hinton traveled to more than 90 locations across the U.S. to “inspire diverse populations to stay in science,” he says. Hinton also continued to celebrate the diverse scientists at Iowa.
“Denise Martinez [associate dean for cultural affairs and diversity initiatives in the UI Carver College of Medicine] and Nicole Del Castillo gave me the task of creating a support group—a safe zone, if you will, for minorities on campus that were specifically from the African diaspora—to make sure that they got the attention that they needed,” he says.
Hinton say that with their encouragement, he created the 100 inspiring Black Scientists List, 100 more inspiring Black Scientists List, and in collaboration with the Community of Scholars, they curated the 1000 Black Scientists List.
Looking forward; looking back
Hinton recently accepted a new position at Vanderbilt University, beginning in September. He says Abel continues to mentor him as he prepares to leave Iowa; they have agreed to continue the mentoring relationship after Hinton arrives at Vanderbilt.
“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to acquire a faculty position at one of the most prestigious schools in the country,” he says. “I’m in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and I’ll be a tenure track assistant professor this fall.”
But the transition is bittersweet, Hinton says.
“I know we all have to move on and do different things, but I’m sad because I won’t have the opportunity to stay in Abel’s lab or continue my work in the diversity office at Iowa, which was so instrumental in shaping my career,” he says. “My DEI work provided me with opportunities and new ways of thinking that I could never have imagined.”