2024 Top 50: Mamadou A. Bah on Institutional Inclusion

In pursuing fairness and inclusion, it can be difficult to know where to invest time and energy. The limited resources DEI leaders often work with are a precious commodity. It’s therefore important to utilize them in a strategy that allows them to have the most impact. At Fair360’s Top 50 event, Mamadou A. Bah, Ph.D. Candidate in immunology and microbial pathogenesis at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, used his experience with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to express how institutional inclusion is often the most effective. 

Resources for Institutional Inclusion

Bah knows firsthand the barriers that many underrepresented groups face in achieving success. As a first-generation immigrant, Bah came to the United States from Guinea, speaking Pular as his first language. His experience learning English was a hard lesson in the challenges of finding belonging in his new home. However, it was also his first exposure to the value of inclusive systems and institutions.  

“This was the first barrier that I faced, which was the language barrier. Luckily… the public school systems welcomed me with open arms,” Bah recalled. “They gave me a dedicated tutor who taught me basic language skills, supplemented by books and audio tapes that fully immersed me in the language.”  

The support Bah received in overcoming these childhood challenges came from a systemic pursuit of equity. It was because of a comprehensive, leader-led strategy of inclusion that he was able to get the help he needed. 

“This was all possible because the New Jersey school system chose to embrace my diversity, making sure I had equitable opportunities to learn and making me feel included as a student,” Bah said. 

Creating Access to Opportunities

That pattern of institutional inclusion continued throughout Bah’s higher education and professional career. Today, he credits much of his success to the mentors who connected him to essential resources along the way.  

“I was granted a scholarship to attend Essex County College where I majored in biology as part of the honors program. Through this experience, I was able to unlock many opportunities,” Bah recounted. “These opportunities were only made possible by the institutional support that helped me overcome financial barriers and the mentors who dedicated time and effort in providing guidance. These resources made up the equitable initiatives that allowed people like myself to thrive.”  

Reflecting on his professional journey, Bah feels compelled to continue the work of inclusion that allowed him to succeed. As a mentor himself, he seeks to follow the example of those who opened professional and educational doors for him. As he tells it, that means expanding systemic DEI efforts to help those with experiences similar to his own.  

“DEI is the underpinning of my journey to this very moment on stage,” Bah said. “It includes the actions of many different people from an individual to an institutional level. It includes the support of many mentors who have helped me through positive reinforcement, but more importantly, through their actions by connecting with the resources and the opportunities that have allowed me to gain the confidence, skills and expertise that I need to live up to my potential.”  

To learn more about the 2024 Top 50 event and to hear from other featured event speakers, visit our Top 50 event page!