Online Degrees
Online Engineering Blog
Diversity and Inclusion in Biomedical Engineering

Diversity and Inclusion in Biomedical Engineering

Diverse team of biomedical engineers working together in a lab

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) movement has made remarkable progress in the last decade, with many industries recognizing the importance of incorporating DEI into their policies and practices.1

From a biomedical engineering perspective, promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is even more critical since the field combines various disciplines, including biology, physics, mathematics, medicine and engineering science.2 As a result, it’s essential to recognize not just personal and cultural differences, but also the scientific differences within the vast network of professionals in the industry.3 Additionally, considering that medical engineering is continuously transforming and evolving, promoting diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the future of healthcare innovation.

This article explores diversity and inclusion through a biomedical engineering lens. We’ll look at why DEI is so crucial to this community of problem-solvers, ways to make the field more inclusive and challenges to overcome.

The Case for Diversity

In educational and professional contexts, there are many benefits to having a diverse workforce. Within the learning environment, collaborating with peers who bring diverse experiences and viewpoints will enhance students’ educational experience and boost their confidence.4 Other benefits include:5

  • Exploring the root causes of health disparities
  • Reducing biases and stereotypes
  • Encouraging collaboration and respect
  • Promoting cross-cultural communication
  • Enhancing problem-solving and creativity
  • Improving cultural competency for everyone representative of the profession

Diversity and inclusion have a direct impact on healthcare technology and innovation in other key ways:6

  • Understanding various social determinants of health
  • Eliminating biases in healthcare data, tools and services
  • Informing the innovation and design of new biomedical devices

The above factors help biomedical engineers devise solutions that consider cultural, socioeconomic and environmental factors, helping to address health disparities in life expectancy.

Challenges and Barriers

In order to overcome the common challenges and barriers to promoting diversity and inclusion, it’s essential to identify them. The most common typically fall into three categories:7

Implicit Bias and Stereotyping

These refer to the attitudes and beliefs that unconsciously affect and inform our understanding, such as preconceptions about others based on race, gender, age or socioeconomic status. These biases might manifest as a tendency to associate certain job roles with specific genders or ethnicities or subconscious assumptions about a person’s capabilities or character based on that individual’s appearance. Implicit biases often create a significant challenge to true diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Insufficient Access

This involves a lack of, or limited access to, courses and programs, resources, laboratories and effective mentorship.8 Insufficient accessibility is a key barrier to inclusion as it significantly reduces the diversity in the field.


A direct result of accessibility issues is the underrepresentation of various cultures in biomedical engineering. This can lead to a limited understanding of diverse physiological and medical needs, which is critical in medical innovation. Since these factors can directly affect the efficiency and accuracy of medical devices, a lack of representation can compromise the integrity of biomedical engineers’ efforts.

Creating an Inclusive Culture

Fortunately, various strategies and policies have proven to bring more diversity and inclusion to the biomedical engineering field.

Building an Inclusive Team

It all starts with ensuring you have a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds, skills and perspectives at each level of your organization. Building an inclusive team will always start with the recruitment and hiring process, but it must also apply to higher organizational positions, such as executive leaders and board members.9

Emphasizing DEI in Education and Training

Promoting diversity starts with education. Examples include providing cultural competence training for staff and faculty, exploring the concept of privilege in class, supporting underrepresented students and integrating DEI materials and principles into the biomedical engineering curricula.10 For instance, as part of Case Western Reserve University's online MS in Biomedical Engineering curriculum, students will develop leadership and interpersonal skills by learning about emotional intelligence and behavior-based communication.

Supporting Industry Initiatives

Another key to creating diversity and inclusion among biomedical engineers is taking advantage of the many initiatives within the industry, such as mentorship programs, scholarships for underrepresented groups and partnerships with educational institutions. For instance, the National Society of Black Engineers is an excellent organization to partner with, as it provides a wealth of resources and assistance to promote diversity in engineering.11

Continuing Research and Innovation

Research and innovation are the backbone of biomedical engineering, making it all the more important to include diverse perspectives in the industry’s research arm. Ideally, research, design and innovation in this field would be driven by inclusive representatives of every demographic, including the smallest minorities.

Expanding Healthcare Access and Equity

Since biomedical engineering directly affects patient care, focusing on bridging healthcare disparities is another key to improving the efficacy of biomedical innovation. This can include increasing access to medical technology for rural communities and social minorities while improving healthcare delivery systems with models such as telehealth services.

Sharing Success Stories and Role Models

The impact of role models and success stories of diversity within the industry cannot be overstated. Recognizing and celebrating pioneers in the field will inspire future generations to consider biomedical engineering as a career. Dr. Gilda Barabino, for example, whose research focuses on minority health disparities, is leading the fight to break down the implicit biases and stereotypes that continue to act as barriers to progress.12

Measuring Progress

Finally, remember that promoting diversity and inclusion can be a complex task, often requiring time and multiple iterations to iron out the kinks. It is, therefore, important to establish benchmarks for assessing diversity, including regular reporting and accountability systems. Progress will not always be linear, but by setting clear metrics and celebrating achievements, you can create a truly diverse and inclusive environment in any setting.

Seize the Opportunities Ahead

In a field with so much potential for career success, increasing diversity, equity and inclusion is mission-critical. Whether you aim to navigate changing demographics or difficult conversations, eliminate discrimination or to understand how diversity affects healthcare design and innovation, the future of engineering is in the hands of today’s committed college undergraduates and graduate students.

When you choose the online MS in Biomedical Engineering program from Case Western Reserve University, you ensure that diversity and inclusion are built into your education. As you learn from experienced faculty members—thought leaders who understand the nuances of DEI—you'll enjoy the convenience and flexibility of our fully online program. Keep up your personal and professional commitments as you expand your network and learn to stand out from the crowd in a dynamic, growing industry.

To get started, contact one of our admission outreach advisors today.

Case Western Reserve University has engaged Everspring, a leading provider of education and technology services, to support select aspects of program delivery.