Web portal to help diversify biomedical workforce

February 5, 2015

Vishwanatha,JKA web portal that will play a key role in helping students pursue and excel at biomedical and behavioral science careers is being developed at UNT Health Science Center.

The project is one part of a five-year effort to address the need for more scientists from under-represented backgrounds. It is part of the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), which is funded by a $19.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Members of the NRMN recently gathered at UNTHSC to lay the ground work for the nationwide effort.

The objective of the NRMNet is to help mentees identify career goals by providing an efficient, user-friendly communication to address the need to increase diversity in the biomedical workforce by, said Jamboor K. Vishwanatha, PhD, Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and International Programs.

The portal will be used for mentoring, networking, mentor-mentee matching and professional development. It also will be helpful in recruiting diverse mentees across career stages and culturally responsive mentors.

Nationally, there’s been a continuing decline in the number of research science doctorates awarded each year. At the same time, the number of faculty members from under-represented groups in biomedical sciences has remained stagnant for three decades, Dr. Vishwanatha said.

Strong mentorship can make a big difference in helping an individual achieve a successful career as a researcher, he said. Mentors can help mentees improve their grant-writing skills and thus increase their chances for getting funding for their research.  Strong mentorship has been linked to enhanced mentee productivity, self-efficacy and career satisfaction, he said.

“Unfortunately, studies have reported that mentees from under-represented groups typically receive less mentoring than their peers,” Dr. Vishwanatha said. “The NIH initiative to diversify the biomedical workforce and the resulting NRMN program is an attempt to provide networking, mentoring and professional development activities to diversify the biomedical workforce.”

The National Research Mentoring Network is shared by UNTHSC, Boston College, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and University of Minnesota School of Medicine.

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