With support from NIH, efforts to diversify biomedical workforce begin at UNTHSC

NRMN-NIH-Meeting-WEB

A national effort to increase the number of researchers from underrepresented minority backgrounds in the biomedical and behavioral workforce is beginning to take shape after a recent meeting at UNT Health Science Center.

A kickoff meeting for the newly formed National Research Mentoring Network featured the project’s four principal investigators -including UNTHSC’s Jamboor K. Vishwanatha, PhD ­- as well as Hannah Valantine, MD, the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity at the National Institutes of Health.

Hannah Valantine, MD
Hannah Valantine, MD

UNTHSC is sharing a five-year, $19.2 million NIH grant – announced in October – to form the network. The partnering institutions are Boston College, University of Wisconsin, Morehouse School of Medicine and University of Minnesota.

The National Research Mentoring Network is one part of the NIH’s $500 million plan over 10 years to develop new approaches aimed at helping researchers from underrepresented backgrounds thrive in biomedical careers. The mentoring network’s aim is to diversify the scientific workforce by encouraging individuals from underrepresented groups to start and stay in biomedical careers.

Nationally, the number of faculty members from underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences has remained stagnant for about 30 years. Numerous studies indicate that when controlling for all variables, researchers from minority backgrounds are not as successful at securing large NIH grants when compared to their peers.

“We are deeply appreciative of the NIH’s support of this initiative and proud to take a leading role,” Dr. Vishwanatha said.

In addition to Dr. Vishwanatha, who heads the project’s Networking and Mentorship Core, the network is led by David Burgess, PhD, of Boston College; Christine Pfund, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin; and Kolawole Okuyemi, MD, MPH, of the University of Minnesota.

UNTHSC already has hired a program manager and a technical project manager and is recruiting a social media coordinator and administrative assistant.  Dr. Harlan Jones, Director of the Center for Diversity and International Programs at UNTHSC, is associate director of the network’s Professional Development core, along with Dr. Vishwanatha.

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