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November 15, 2010

Grant aims to improve diversity in the scientific community

The National Institutes of Health is awarding the University and regional partners approximately $2 million to help improve diversity in the scientific workforce. The money comes from a new initiative called the NIH Director’s ARRA Funded Pathfinder Award to Promote Diversity in the Scientific Workforce, which is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The University is one of six grant recipients.

Vivian Lewis, vice provost for faculty development and diversity and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, leads a multidisciplinary team that will study how different mentoring interventions can promote the resilience of biomedical researchers from underrepresented groups.

“Resilience is a useful quality for anyone, but it is especially important for women and underrepresented minorities in academic institutions,” says Lewis. “Mentors are well  positioned to facilitate resilience among their protégés; and we will conduct a randomized, controlled study of different types of mentoring resulting in greater academic success. Ultimately, we hope to create a workforce of trained professionals who, in turn, will try to address the needs of diverse populations.”

The University’s 2006 Task Force Report on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness cited the need for greater mentoring of faculty. The report found that a lack of mentoring played a role in preventing faculty advancement.

“This initiative is consistent with the University’s efforts to provide a more inclusive and welcoming campus for all faculty, regardless of gender, race, and ethnicity,” says University president Joel Seligman. “The research results found at the Medical Center potentially can be applied to all departments at the University of Rochester and at universities nationwide.”

The team of interdisciplinary researchers from the University, as well as from Upstate Medical Center and the University of Buffalo, worked to secure the grant.

“We have established the Upstate New York Translational Research Network (UNYTRN) as part of our Clinical and Translational Science Institute to assemble teams from up to 16 regional biomedical research institutions so we can tackle the important issues facing us in clinical research. The retention of diverse faculty members is such an issue, and our ability to address this problem is made possible by this partnership with our neighboring institutions,” says Thomas Pearson, director of the Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “This partnership allowed us to succeed in a fierce nationwide competition for these funds.”

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