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Vol. LXVII, No. 8
April 10, 2015
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In Search of Moonshot
Summit Focuses on Strategies to Increase Diversity in Medicine, Research
NIMHD acting director Dr. Yvonne Maddox (third from r) and National Hispanic Medical Association president and CEO Dr. Elena Rios (r) are shown at the summit with panelists (from l) Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III, president, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Dr. Monica Ramirez Basco, assistant director for neuroscience, mental health and broadening participation, Office of Science and Technology Policy; Dr. Ronald Copeland, senior vice president, national diversity strategy and policy and chief diversity officer, Kaiser Permanente; Dr. Wayne Frederick, president, Howard University; and Dr. Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer, Association of American Medical Colleges.

NIMHD acting director Dr. Yvonne Maddox (third from r) and National Hispanic Medical Association president and CEO Dr. Elena Rios (r) are shown at the summit with panelists (from l) Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III, president, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Dr. Monica Ramirez Basco, assistant director for neuroscience, mental health and broadening participation, Office of Science and Technology Policy; Dr. Ronald Copeland, senior vice president, national diversity strategy and policy and chief diversity officer, Kaiser Permanente; Dr. Wayne Frederick, president, Howard University; and Dr. Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer, Association of American Medical Colleges.

Photo: Genevieve Bloomer

The National Hispanic Medical Association, in partnership with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, recently hosted a Consensus Summit on Building Diversity in Medicine and Research. A diverse group of 75 thought leaders gathered to share lessons learned, best practices and strategies and recommendations for enhancing workforce diversity in medicine and biomedical and behavioral research.

“This is an invitational meeting to bring together the best and brightest in medicine and research to determine ways to build pipelines and pathways for the next generation,” said Dr. Elena Rios, NHMA president and CEO. “We know how important it is to start now.”

In welcoming remarks, Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director, said, “Meetings like this are so crucial because we get to hear from those in the trenches, doing what needs to be done. You can help us think through how we can generalize these approaches and success stories.”

“It’s time for big ideas,” said Dr. Yvonne Maddox, NIMHD acting director. “Let’s make today a big moment. We have to think differently about how to address research workforce diversity. We need deans, department chairs and faculty at medical schools involved in changing policies on how they accept students and select administrative staff.”

Dr. Yvonne “Bonnie” Maldonado, senior associate dean for faculty development and diversity at Stanford University School of Medicine, encouraged participants to look for the moonshot—the big ideas and innovations—to engage inclusion, awareness and empowerment.

Featured speaker Dr. Hannah Valantine, NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity, discussed NIH’s new integrated strategy for expanding diversity in biomedical research careers. Approaches include establishment of national hubs for innovation in scientific workforce diversity; a renewed commitment to ensuring fairness in peer review; testing and evaluating evidence-based programs to diversify the NIH Intramural Research Program; and grants through the NIH Common Fund’s Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program.

“We need to be cognizant of why we need diversity and the nature of the problem,” she said. “Diversity is essential for good science. There are a number of risks we face that lack of diversity causes. We lose trust. Increased diversity leads to more committed scientists.”

Dr. Monica Ramirez Basco of the Office of Science and Technology Policy emphasized President Obama’s support of programs to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics efforts such as the Department of Energy’s $25 million grant to support cybersecurity education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Rather than creating a series of new initiatives, Dr. Ronald Copeland of Kaiser Permanente urged participants to consider an integrated approach to diversifying the medical and research workforce. “Value is created through integration, not fragmentation,” he said. “We need to harness the power of integration to bring things to scale, which involves tracking, infrastructure and measurable results over time and requires stakeholder engagement.”

Many students aspiring to careers in science and medicine drop out or change majors within the first 2 years of their studies when they become overwhelmed by the rigorous coursework, said Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We need to rethink the first 2 years of a student’s career—change the structure of the classroom—and connect researchers to students at this critical point where they are deciding whether to stick with the challenge of scientific study or not,” he said.

Dr. Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, called for more women and people of color on search committees and in leadership positions in academia, as well as increased financial assistance for students, such as Pell grants, and incentives for them to graduate on time. “We need to take away barriers that prevent students from succeeding,” he said.

NHMA will issue a summary report with recommendations from the meeting on the role of institutional leadership in building a diverse workforce in medicine and research and best practices in recruiting and sustaining diversity in biomedical and behavioral research and medicine.


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