In comparison to the general population of Texas, racial and ethnic minorities suffer from heightened risk factors and poorer overall health and access to health care. As a National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Specialized Center of Excellence (COE) for Health Disparities”, the mission of Texas Center for Health Disparities (TCHD) is to prevent, reduce and eliminate health disparities in our communities through, Research, Education/Training. TCHD seeks as one of its goals, to create opportunities for early- stage and junior faculty to engage with community partners to develop and conduct health disparity research. To achieve this goal, TCHD solicited pilot research projects from the junior investigators to identify and support the highly capable and motivated applicants to conduct research that aligns with its programmatic theme of women’s health and health disparities. This pilot projects program is designed to help awardees generate preliminary data with the expectation that awardees will subsequently secure extramural funding. The NIMHD award provides one year of pilot project funding, and an additional year of funding will be provided by institutional funds depending on satisfactory progress, submitting a competitive renewal application and peer review.
Four University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) faculty members, Leslie Allsopp, PhD, Mark Cunningham, PhD, Melanie Neelamegam, PhD, and Sterling Ortega, PhD, all working as Assistant Professors have been awarded the TCHD pilot project funding supported though the funding from the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). These faculty attended the faculty development training through Interdisciplinary Research and Leadership (IRL) program and STAR Leadership Program (SLP). IRL program is supported by the Minority Health, Education, Research and Outreach (MiHERO) endowment grant from NIMHD and SLP is supported though NIMHD U64 mechanism-Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha, Regent Professor and Vice President, Institute for Health Disparities (IHD) is the Principal Investigator of these two large fundings; Dr. Harlan Jones, Associate Professor and Director of IHD is the MPI of NIMHD U54 grant and Health Education, Awareness and Research in Disparities (HEARD) Scholar in NIMH Endowment grant; Dr. Riyaz Basha, Associate Professor and HEARD Scholar is the Director of SLP/IRL programs.
These pilot projects will allow the awardees, who are active researchers in School of Biomedical Sciences (Drs. Cunningham and Ortega), School of Public Health (Dr. Neelamegam) and Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (Dr. Allsopp) to build upon their current research and apply for large extramural funding.
“We are glad that we are able to support the research of these junior faculty to expand their research support for their career advancement,” said Dr. Vishwanatha. He also added that, “We’re optimistic that the financial support for these faculty will help them to receive more funding in future.”