UCLA will play a leading role for a major five-year, multi-institution initiative to boost the diversity of the nation’s biomedical workforce.
The NIH announced Oct. 22 that it has awarded nearly $31 million in fiscal year 2014 to develop new approaches to engage researchers, including those from backgrounds that are underrepresented in biomedical sciences, and prepare them to thrive in the NIH-funded workforce.
UCLA received $2.1 million of that total, which it will use to launch the NIH Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center. The center will provide operations and data coordination and support, and conduct a longitudinal evaluation, in support of the two programs within the consortium: Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity, or BUILD, and the National Research Mentoring Network.
The center will be led by Dr. Keith Norris, professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and Pamela Davidson, adjunct professor of nursing at the UCLA School of Nursing and adjunct associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
The UCLA center will draw upon the expertise of faculty and staff from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and other units across campus to gather data and enhance existing recruitment and career-development programs.
“Ensuring a diverse faculty in biomedical and other academic fields is an institutional priority for UCLA, and we are proud to receive this grant and take a leading role in partnership with the NIH as we continue our work in this important area,” Chancellor Gene Block said.
The NIH awards are part of a planned five-year effort to support more than 50 awardees and partnering institutions in establishing a national consortium to develop, implement and evaluate approaches to encourage people to start and stay in biomedical research careers. Supported by the NIH Common Fund and all 27 of the NIH’s institutes and centers, the awards are part of three initiatives of the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program.
The coordination and evaluation center will oversee efforts among the NIH’s Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity awardees across the nation as well as a national research mentoring network. The consortium will explore novel strategies to optimize successful biomedical careers for women and underrepresented minorities, ranging from undergraduate students to junior faculty, Norris said. The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute and the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute also will play integral parts in the effort.
“We are excited about the innovative work the consortium will be conducting to address the persisting disparities in the biomedical workforce at a national level,” Norris said. “With the renowned UCLA Higher Education Research Institute as a key partner, the consortium is positioned to build upon the greatest base of evidence for a wide range of markers for undergraduate student success in science, technology, engineering and math.”
The coordination and evaluation center and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute will become national resources for workforce development in diverse populations, Davidson said.
“We have recruited an experienced and talented team of senior and junior faculty investigators who are experts in higher education, evaluation, and leadership and career development, and are knowledgeable and committed to building a diverse workforce and the next generation of biomedical researchers," she said.
Other UCLA faculty leaders in the effort are:
David Geffen School of Medicine
Fielding School of Public Health
Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
Anderson School of Management
Research demonstrates that economic, social and cultural factors have a powerful impact on the pursuit of science careers, and has provided small-scale data on interventions that could transform biomedical research training if they were widely implemented. It suggests that a fundamental shift in the way scientists are trained and mentored is required to attract and sustain the interest of people from underrepresented groups in the scientific workforce at all career stages.
“The biomedical research enterprise must engage all sectors of the population in order to solve the most complex biological problems and discover innovative new ways to improve human health,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins said in the NIH announcement.
“While past efforts to diversify our workforce have had significant impact on individuals, we have not made substantial progress in expanding diversity on a larger scale. This program will test new models of training and mentoring so that we can ultimately attract the best minds from all groups to biomedical research.”
The three initiatives that form the Diversity Program Consortium are:
“The Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program aims to enable transformation across the spectrum of research training and mentoring,” said James M. Anderson, director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the NIH Common Fund. “We expect that new models for fostering careers will emerge and be widely adopted, having nationwide impact on biomedical research workforce diversity. Scientists from all backgrounds as well as science will ultimately benefit from these activities.”