The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a third round of awards to increase diversity and inclusion among the nation’s biomedical faculty. Funded by the NIH Common Fund FIRST program, the awards provide funding to recruit diverse cohorts of early-stage research faculty and establish inclusive environments to help them succeed.
The new set of awards totals more than $64 million over five years, pending the availability of funds. In some instances the recipients are investing their own funds to boost the total financial commitment to the effort.
For example, the University of Michigan indicated it will invest a total of $79 million ($15.9 million from NIH and $63.7 million from the university) to recruit and support 30 new faculty members, as part of what it’s calling the Michigan Program for Advancing Cultural Transformation. The hiring will be focused on three interdisciplinary research clusters: social and behavioral research, basic biomedical research and clinical-translational research.
Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center received $17 million from NIH to help it hire a cohort of at least 18 early-career scientists in the areas of immunology and infection, structural biology and imaging, genomics and health disparities, and neuroscience.
“Vanderbilt is foundationally committed to inclusive excellence, and the V-FIRST program puts us on a fast-track to being an example of how to evolve into a diverse, self-sustaining research community,” said Consuelo H. Wilkins, professor of Medicine, Senior Vice President and senior associate dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence at Vanderbilt. Wilkins, one of the principal investigators on the Vanderbilt project, added, “I am proud the leadership of both institutions are united on this goal that secures Vanderbilt’s future among the leading research institutions. Faculty from marginalized and historically excluded groups face many obstacles, and it is gratifying for the NIH to recognize and support solutions to overcoming these challenges,”
The University of Texas El Paso was awarded $15.55 million for five years to hire a diverse cohort of new faculty with research interests focused on Hispanic health disparities in areas such as cancer, diabetes, substance use, and mental health.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas, will recruit tenure track faculty from underrepresented groups in the fields of biomedical engineering, brain science, and cancer at each institution. Their five-year award is $16.48 million.
The intent of the FIRST program is to help institutions “build self-reinforcing communities of scientists committed to diversity and inclusive excellence,” which means developing cultures that “establish and sustain scientific environments that cultivate and benefit from a full range of talent.” The recipient institutions are expected to use their funding to foster sustainable institutional culture change that positively impacts faculty development, retention, progression, and eventual promotion.
These latest awards follow two earlier rounds of funding from the FIRST program. The first cohort included Cornell University, Drexel University, Florida State University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, San Diego State University and a partnership between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Tuskegee University.
The second cohort involved awards to Northwestern University; University of California, San Diego; University of Maryland Baltimore; University of New Mexico; and University of South Carolina.
The institutions receiving FIRST awards work with a FIRST Coordination and Evaluation Center at the Morehouse School of Medicine to evaluate the effectiveness of their approaches.
Read the full article here