Under-Represented Scientists Stay in the Game with Help from the National Research Mentoring Network

The biomedical sciences have struggled with diversity for a long time. Research shows that many groups who are under-represented in the general population, are even further under-represented in the biomedical science workforce. In fact, one study found that black scientists were less likely to receive NIH funding than their white peers who had similar training experiences, publication records and educational backgrounds.

To combat this, the NIH developed a Diversity Program Consortium that administers the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). The network consists of biomedical professionals and institutions that offer mentorship and professional development to mentors and trainees from under-represented racial and ethnic groups, those with disabilities or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences.

Multi-ethnic Diverse Group of People In Circle

NRMN currently connects about 1,300 mentees and 740 mentors across the nation through in-person and virtual mentoring programs and offers a valuable wealth of resources regarding coaching on grant writing and mentor training. The nationwide mentoring initiative behind NRMN seeks to increase under-represented trainees’ access to quality mentors from diverse groups and backgrounds – “across race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, able-ism, and geography”.

Vivian Lewis M.D., vice provost for Faculty Development & Diversity and professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at URMC, knows that culturally responsive mentoring is key to the success of any researcher.  But she also knows that “just being a good researcher doesn’t make you a good mentor automatically. Here at University of Rochester we’ve had a lot of experience training mentors.”  

In fact, Lewis leads the UR Mentors program that offers support and training to faculty across the university, including those in biomedical research, on how to be an effective mentor. One of the program’s major initiatives is to discuss the role of diversity and bias in the mentor-protégé relationship and understand the implications. Through the program, faculty gain confidence, knowledge, and skills to help them give their protégés the best leg up.

URMC also collaborates with Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black college that is a NRMN academic partner and is funded by NRMN’s sister program, Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD).  Many of Xavier’s pre-medical and pharmacy students have trained at University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry over the years, but fewer biomedical research students have taken advantage of that partnership. Lewis hopes to recruit more under-represented students to come to URMC for mentored research experiences and to forge more faculty research collaborations through the NRMN partnership with Xavier.

John Cullen, PhD., director of Diversity and Inclusion at the CTSI and coordinator of Outreach in the Susan B. Anthony Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center, recently signed up to be a NRMN mentor and encourages both trainees and faculty to join the network.  He cautions, “though the NRMN website primarily focuses on mentorship, it is extremely important for under-represented trainees to sign up as mentees. Anyone from undergraduates up through junior faculty can join as a mentee.”

To access NRMN’s mentor training resources, click here. To join NRMN as a mentor or mentee, click here.

Maintaining Leadership in LGBT Health Care Equality through Research

HEI 2016_bug final-01As you may have  read, UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial and F.F. Thompson Hospitals were recently recognized as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. Both hospitals earned top marks by demonstrating a strong commitment to providing equitable, inclusive care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients and their families.

John P Cullen, Ph.D., director of Diversity and Inclusion for URMC’s Clinical & Translational Science Institute and coordinator of outreach for the Susan B. Anthony Center, says that within the Rochester region, nearly 7% of people self-identify as lesbian, gay or bi-sexual, which is about twice the national average of other cities.

“As the largest medical center in the area, we have a responsibility to stay ahead of the curve in education, building awareness, and creating new ways to serve this population,” says Cullen. “It is a source of pride that there is greater understanding across the organization, and that the unique needs of the LGBT population are more front-of-mind and integral to everyday conversations.”

7005The accreditation was granted based on four core criteria that make up the Health Care Equality Index: strength of non-discrimination policies regarding LGBT patients and employees, providing equal visitation rights to LGBT patients and their visitors, and appropriately training staff members in LGBT patient-centered care.

However, the HRC has reorganized and augmented these four core criteria for next year’s assessment. One core will now focus on LGBT patient and community engagement with particular emphasis on conducting LGBT health research as well as HIV research.

These new standards highlight the importance of conducting research that addresses LGBT issues and including LGBT individuals in research, which is one of the many underrepresented populations that Cullen is beginning to address.

“The CTSI is committed to diversity and inclusion in community engagement and research participant recruitment,” says Cullen. “The integration of underrepresented populations into research studies supports the CTSI mission to improve public health.”

An historic 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) acknowledged that LGBT people have unique health experiences and needs, and that as a nation we lack a good understanding of what these experiences and needs are. The report also recommended that researchers engage LGBT people in health studies and collect data on these populations to identify and better understand health conditions that affect them.

Several URMC researchers are doing just that. Vincent Silenzio, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Psychiatry and Megan Lytle-Flint, Ph.D., senior instructor of Psychiatry, are using social media to better understand the factors that put LGBT populations at risk of intimate partner violence and suicide and to prevent these events. Charles Kamen, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, researches health disparities in cancer-related health outcomes and psychological stress among LGBT populations.

URMC is also home to the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), whose research address prevention, detection, and treatment of HIV/AIDS via development of vaccines, fostering outreach to at-risk populations that include LGBT individuals, and creating drugs to prevent progressive neurological issues associated with the virus. In fact, the Rochester Victory Alliance, a CFAR collaborator also housed at URMC, just began enrolling participants in a promising new Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP) vaccine trial, which is the first to test whether an antibody could prevent HIV infection.

With a continued emphasis on research that addresses health disparities affecting underrepresented populations, Cullen believes we will “be able to maintain our leadership status in LGBT Healthcare Equality in the coming year.”

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2016, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/hei.

For more information on the changing Healthcare Equality Index standards, click here.


Does You Research Involve Diverse Populations?

Two upcoming UR conferences will provide opportunities to highlight your research and foster multidisciplinary collaborations.

7th Annual UR Diversity Conference

SD_7DConference_4.8.16The 7th Annual UR Diversity Conference, titled “#URDiversity: What Do You Stand For?” takes place on April 8th on the River Campus.  Showcasing your research at this event may help foster multidisciplinary research teams. Please spread the word to your colleagues and encourage them to answer the Call for Posters. This past year, a number of posters were presented at the CTSI Data Blitz series that may be appropriate for the conference.  The Call for Posters deadline is March 28th.  For details, see http://www.rochester.edu/diversity/annual-diversity-conference/annual-diversity-conference2016/.

This year’s keynote speaker is Alicia Garza from Oakland, CA, and you can read about her work and activism at the following link, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicia_Garza.  The intent of the conference is to urge members of the University community to examine how each individual can further diversity and inclusion within the greater societal context.

3rd Annual Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at URMC

The 3rd Annual “Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at URMC,” on Thursday, April 28th, 2016, from 8 am to noon, aims to increase awareness of diversity-related initiatives at URMC and help people connect to these efforts and to one another. (Get the full story on last year’s event.)

stand against racismPosters will be displayed concurrently in Flaum Atrium or Saunders Research Building Atrium. If you would like to propose a display, please contact Grace Fuller by March 28, 2016 by e-mail (grace_fuller@urmc.rochester.edu).  Please let her know the title or topic and the authors or presenters as well as your display needs (e.g. easel, 40×60 inch foam board, table, etc.) and location preference (Flaum Atrium or Saunders Research Building).

This Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at URMC event is just one of the many community activities taking place in April as part of the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism national movement.  Across the country, communities will hold Stand Against Racism events throughout April to help raise awareness about racism and diversity issues.