Nods to ‘Path to Excellence and Innovation’
Tabak, Mfume Highlight PEI Initiative at White House Conference
An NIH leader recently highlighted a small business program office initiative as a vehicle that is successfully enabling historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to pursue federal funding opportunities.
NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak delivered a keynote address, “Achieving Equity Through the Path to Excellence and Innovation (PEI) Initiative,” during the 2021 Federal HBCU Industry Day on Sept. 10. The event was part of the annual HBCU Week Conference hosted by the White House Initiative on HBCUs.
Equity was the overall theme for the conference. In his remarks, Tabak said ensuring that NIH promotes equity is a responsibility he “doesn’t take lightly.” He added that the PEI Initiative promotes equity in revenue opportunities for HBCU students and faculty, as well as equity in resolving health disparities.
“The PEI Initiative was created to provide outreach, training and technical assistance to HBCUs interested in pursuing contracts at NIH and other federal agencies,” Tabak said, explaining that PEI’s mission is to empower these academic institutions with the “knowledge, resources and skills they need to effectively compete for contracts and win partnership opportunities within the National Institutes of Health.”
As evidence of the effort’s achievements, Tabak shared success stories from each of PEI’s six pilot HBCUs, including a $12 million award to Meharry Medical College for outreach and engagement efforts in communities disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. PEI’s pilot concluded at the end of 2020; a new cohort (PEI 2.0) consisting of 21 HBCUs and 42 small businesses was launched in May 2021.
In a separate presentation during Industry Day, Diane J. Frasier, head of NIH contracting activity and director of the Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management, introduced HBCUs and business partners that will participate in the initiative’s next 18-month phase of training and procurement readiness development.
Industry Day speakers also included David Dasher, deputy assistant secretary for acquisitions in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources at HHS; NIH deputy director for management Dr. Alfred Johnson; Bowie State University president Dr. Aminta H. Breaux; and Sedika Franklin, associate director, White House Initiative for HBCUs.
Dasher spoke about the importance of diversity and inclusion and the valuable role that HBCUs fulfill in health services and medical research. Johnson discussed the NIH UNITE program, which is a framework to end structural racism across the biomedical research enterprise and spur widescale, systematic changes.
Earlier in the conference, U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) also acknowledged the NIH PEI Initiative in remarks during a workshop that advised HBCUs to consider achieving equity through consortium building. Moderated by Dr. Yvonne T. Maddox, president of the TA Thornton Foundation and NIH PEI 2.0 senior strategic advisor, the panel discussion included speakers from three institutes, the NIH SEED office and a PEI HBCU.