$10 million endowment strengthens research into health disparities

By Alex Branch

Dr. Vishwanatha

A $10 million federal endowment will further elevate UNT Health Science Center as a national leader in research into health disparities that impact the lives of ethnic, racial, rural and economically-disadvantaged populations across the United States.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) awarded the endowment to UNTHSC, one of only two institutions nationally to receive it.

The endowment, paid over five years, is permanently invested and the investment proceeds will be used to support UNTHSC infrastructure and capacity for research focused on health disparities.

“Health disparities result in segments of the population without access to quality health care and new medical advances that can help them achieve optimal health,” said Jamboor Vishwanatha, PhD, Principal Investigator and Texas Center for Health Disparities Project Director. “This permanent endowment recognizes that the Health Science Center is a national leader in the effort to discover solutions to these disparities and improve the health of millions of people affected by them.”

The NIMHD endowment program was mandated in 2001 by Congress to expand the infrastructure of institutions that are committed to health disparities research. The endowments do not directly support research projects themselves but rather the scientists and students who conduct them.

The Health Science Center will use the endowment to support three key priorities:

  • Develop an Interdisciplinary Research Leadership Program in health disparities for junior faculty.
  • Establish a Health, Education, Awareness and Research in Disparities (HEARD) scholarship program for the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty.
  • Increase the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral and clinical research workforce by supporting stipends for PhD students each year to conduct research in minority health and health disparities.

After five years, UNTHSC can apply for a second, 5-year cycle of the NIMHD endowment program. The total investment could eventually grow to $27 million to $35 million, which could support 42 Interdisciplinary Research Leaders, 28 HEARD scholars and 98 PhD students, Dr. Vishwanatha said.

NIMHD previously identified UNTHSC as a committed partner in health disparity research in 2017 when it designated the university as one of 12 national Specialized Centers of Excellence in Health Disparities. UNTHSC, the only university in Texas to receive the designation, will share about $82 million over five years with the other universities selected.

UNTHSC President Michael R. Williams said the endowment magnifies the university as a premier destination for researchers dedicated to eliminating health disparities.

“The Health Science Center and our Texas Center for Health Disparities recognize that lives are on the line because of health disparities in Texas and across the country,” Dr. Williams said. “This endowment will provide our researchers the crucial infrastructure and capacity they need to discover solutions to health disparities not only now but for decades to come.”

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