Xavier receives $19.6 million NIH award to enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce
NEW ORLEANS (October 22, 2014) – This afternoon Xavier University of Louisiana received a $19.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the national Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative. Xavier will use the grant to expand the already thriving biomedical programs the historically Black university offers its students.
“Xavier is already number one in the nation as the primary undergraduate source of African American Ph.D.s in the life sciences,” said Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University. “Yet, with this grant, we believe we can triple the number of these graduates and increase the number of African American life science Ph.D.s nationally by 10%. We are proud that NIH has named us one of the institutions that it believes can uniquely contribute to this important goal.”
The award is part of a $240 million NIH investment involving more than 10 institutions to develop new approaches to engage student researchers, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, and prepare them to thrive in the NIH-funded workforce. Xavier and fellow awardees will establish a national consortium to train, mentor and encourage students from underrepresented groups to enter into and stay in research careers.
“These awards represent a significant step towards ensuring that NIH’s future biomedical research workforce will reflect the unique perspectives found within the diverse composition of our society,” said Dr. Hannah Valantine, NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity.
“Participation in faculty research projects is a major reason for Xavier’s success in graduating STEM [science, technology and engineering] students, many of whom go on to get the Ph.D.,” said Dr. Gene D’Amour, the university’s principal investigator for the grant. “Working with our partner
research universities across the nation, this NIH grant will greatly increase the opportunities for our students to become even more actively engaged in cutting-edge research and to go on to get life science Ph.D.s.”
Xavier will serve as the primary institution for its grant, “Project PATHWAY: Building Integrated Pathways to Independence for Diverse Biomedical Researchers.” It has partnered with Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, the Louisiana State University and its Health Science Center, Tulane University, The University of Wisconsin, Meharry Medical College, George Washington University, Penn State University, the University of Rochester and the University of California San Francisco. Xavier will conduct and oversee the program’s implementation to broaden the interests of students early in their college careers and attract them to a life sciences Ph.D. The primary benefit to the 11 partners is access to Xavier STEM students to participate in their summer research programs and ultimately attract these students to their graduate programs. These students, known as BUILD Scholars, are motivated undergraduate science students with an interest in doing research and pursuing a Ph.D.
“The Laney Graduate School at Emory University is pleased to partner with Xavier University to implement the BUILD Initiative. Our commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion at Emory is being implemented through robust, innovative programming that creates pipelines to increase the number of underrepresented students entering and progressing through doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences. Partnership with Xavier University will undoubtedly benefit ¬ and better ¬ our efforts. A deeper level of engagement with BUILD scholars during their undergraduate experience will create opportunities that we hope will not only attract them to our programs at Emory, but ultimately create and nurture a biomedical workforce that is more representative of the unique perspectives and diversity of our nation,” said Lisa A. Tedesco, Ph.D., Dean, James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies, Emory University.
The BUILD Initiative is expected to include five integrated components:
- Tuition scholarships, including stipends, for undergraduate BUILD scholars and possible loan repayment funds for those who pursue a Ph.D.
- Training and mentorship experiences for students across a wide range of disciplines in the biomedical sciences;
- Salary support for key faculty responsible for research training;
- Resources for highly effective mentors to train new mentors; and
- Support for an “innovation space” environment for BUILD awardee institutions to develop additional creative and novel approaches to increase the diversity of the student pool that enters the Ph.D. training pathway relevant to biomedical research
“This NIH grant just could not be a more exciting opportunity for Xavier faculty and students to expand our research mentoring and training efforts to now ensure even a greater number of our graduates will pipeline into STEM terminal degree programs and subsequent biomedical research careers,” said Dr. Maryam Foroozesh, Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs at Xavier. “Not only does this award speak to the value that Xavier holds for our nation and the world relative to the effective training of biomedical research leaders but also reflects a deep alignment with Xavier’s commitment to its mission and appreciation of its rich history.”
For information about the BUILD awardees and partners, please visit http://commonfund.nih.gov/diversity/fundedresearch