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NIH Diversity Consortium Newsletter

Consortium Team Updates

Welcome Statement

Welcome to the National Institutes of Health Diversity Program Consortium Newsletter, your source for consortium-wide updates. We invite you to preview our inaugural issue and participate in the creation of the consortium-wide Communications Working Group.

This newsletter is an opportunity for the Consortium to communicate ideas, foster learning opportunities for our consortium partners, and collaborate by submitting your latest program updates. We encourage our partners to participate by providing newsletter content and taking an active role in consortium communications. Each awardee has exciting updates to give, novel ideas to share, and special stories to highlight. In an effort to feature those widely, the CEC has reached out to each site's communication specialist. Our aim is to develop content and together shape the strategy by which the Consortium becomes visible to the research community at large.

We would like to thank all of our partners for their work and extend a special thanks to Morgan State University (MSU), San Francisco State (SF State), and University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) specifically for their contribution to this edition's Consortium Team Update.

Contributed by Holly Logan (SF BUILD)

SF BUILD extends Legacy of Inclusion

In 1968, protests against systemic discrimination shut down the San Francisco State University campus as protestors demanded greater inclusion in academia. The six-month strike, which made national news, was led by students of color and supported by faculty and staff. Their actions resulted in creation of the only College of Ethnic Studies (CES) in the nation. The College was founded on principles of community based research and teaching, student leadership and activism, and the self-determination of communities of color.

The goals of SF BUILD directly align with the principles of CES and the passion of the students, faculty, and staff who led and participated in the strike. SF BUILD extends this legacy of inclusion in teaching and research by enabling students from underrepresented groups in science to discover their research interests that affirm personal values. For example, SF BUILD supports students and faculty to participate in "giving back" research. This type of research enables students and faculty to engage community in biomedical research projects to increase rigor and impact. Working together they can more effectively address complex health issues in local communities and improve community health.

An example of an SF BUILD activity that partners students, faculty, and community members in efforts to improve community health is our emerging work with the Center for Youth Wellness in Bayview Hunters Point. Youth in this community have led efforts to better understand how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Toxic Stress affect their health and well-being by partnering with healthcare providers and biomedical investigators. SF BUILD has joined these efforts and team members participated in training on ACES and Toxic Stress led by Janine Greer from the Center for Youth Wellness.

Learn more about the Center for Youth Wellness.
Learn more about the College of Ethnic Studies.
Learn more about SF BUILD activities.

San Francisco State University faculty participated in SF State's 'BUILD Dialogue'

SF State faculty attended the BUILD dialogue event at SF State to learn about SF BUILD and engage in a conversation about how they hope faculty will be involved.

One of the main themes that emerged from the event was the suggestion for SF BUILD to host faculty seminars and networking opportunities to facilitate engagement both across campus and institutions (SF State and UC San Francisco). Faculty collaboration will contribute to enhancing diversity in biomedical research through projects for student training and development. Faculty will also have the opportunity to collaborate on grant proposals and projects to increase capacity for innovative research that addresses complex health issues that are relevant to local communities.

Collaborations that have already formed link investigators from both SF State and UCSF with community agencies. They plan to study the link between gun violence and increased visits to local emergency rooms days after the shooting, how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and Toxic Stress affect the health of local youth, and biomarkers for chronic stress due to social disadvantage that can result in worse health outcomes for underserved communities.

Contributed by Morgan State University

ASCEND Summer Research Institute at Morgan State University

Morgan State University will hold its first ASCEND Summer Research Institute (SRI) from June 3 to July 28, 2015.

Thirty undergraduate students, all from underrepresented minority backgrounds, will attend the ASCEND SRI. Students attending this eight-week workshop-style program will familiarize themselves with the concept of health, the different branches of science that contribute to health, the scientific method, and how scientists think. By the end of the program, they will write and receive feedback on a preliminary research proposal.

ASCEND is the acronym for Morgan State University's BUILD project, and stands for "A Student-Centered, ENtrepreneurship Development Training Model to Increase Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce." This program is student-centered, and its main tenet is that students will be "entrepreneurs" rather than "apprentices." Accordingly, during the SRI, students will select their own research topics and develop their own proposals.

The students will be guided by an interdisciplinary team of five faculty members and five near-peer mentors from Morgan State University, University of Maryland Medical Center, and Johns Hopkins University. In addition, guest lecturers from these three institutions will present during the SRI. We are mostly using a "guide on the side" rather than a "sage on the stage" teaching model.

Similar programs have been tested with great success elsewhere, mainly in settings with relatively inexperienced researchers. The World Health Organization has implemented similar programs with people researching primary health care in many countries. The targeted audiences were typically people who did not have much research experience, but were familiar with the health problems of their country or region. Hundreds of students in Iran have been and continue to be trained in such programs. This is the first time that such a program is being held at Morgan State University, and we look forward to sharing our "lessons learned" with you at the end of the summer.

Contributed by The University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Don't just gain knowledge - create it!

BlaST scholars in a research lab Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Carlene Moller (center) with BLaST mentors Andrej Podlutsky (left) and Natalia Podlutskaya (right) together in their research lab.

"A career can be a lifelong commitment. That is why it is important for college students to work in their field of interest before they commit", said Natalia Podlutskaya, a Laboratory Research and Teaching Technician for the new Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Natalia went on to say "BLaST creates a much needed link between learning in the classroom and working in the professional field." Mentors like Natalia are helping undergraduates gain experience in biomedical research as a way to foster their interest and success in biomedical and health careers.

The program, which began less than a year ago, is funded through a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. The undergraduates involved in the program are not just from Fairbanks. BLaST also provides mentors to students attending Alaska's rural campuses, many of which are located in towns that are only accessible by airplane. BLaST ensures that students in these remote areas have access to research resources and professional experiences.

BLaST mentor and Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at UAF, Andrej Podlutsky, said that he thinks BLaST will help students learn more about themselves and what they truly want for their future. He said about 30% of students in his Cell and Molecular Biology class does not know what they are going to do after graduating. He said this is alarming because students in the class are usually nearing graduation. "We are graduating them without practical knowledge on what the next step is," he said. He hopes the 30% will dwindle as BLaST helps students explore their future options.

Carlene Moller was a UAF undergraduate, majoring in biology, and trying to decide what she will do after graduation. She got involved with BLaST because she thought it would be a good way to learn about different labs. Through BLaST, Carley is gaining research experience at two UAF labs. In one lab, Carley helps cultivate cell cultures and raise Caenorhabditis elegans, or C. elegans. In the other lab, Carley is using those cell cultures and C. elegans to investigate whether or not the Alaskan version of smokeless tobacco, Iqmik, is harmful for its users. Carley is an Alaska Native and said that she "wanted to serve the people within the State". So what does Carley want to do after graduation? More research, said the prospective graduate student.

There are other undergraduates in the BLaST program who, like Carley, are learning by doing. Although they still attend lectures and read thick textbooks, they are no longer passive learners. They have become researchers as well as learners. They soak in scientific knowledge while contributing to it. At such an early stage of the program, BLaST is already having a positive effect on a diverse group of students in Fairbanks and rural campuses across Alaska. The futures of the BLaST students and the program itself seem promising indeed!

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under three linked awards number RL5MD009600, TL4MD009628 and 1UL1MD009610. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official view of the National Institutes of Health.

People in Biomedicine

Dr. Teaster Baird, Jr

SFSU Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
SF BUILD's Student Training Core Leader

Dr. Baird received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1992 from Tougaloo College in chemistry and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Duke University in 1997. He has been at San Francisco Stat University (SFSU) since 2002, where he was recently awarded the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching is bestowed upon faculty who

  • Show "consistent excellent teaching effectiveness"
  • Facilitate the "creation of an academic environment that fosters student learning, achievement and enthusiasm"
  • Have a "positive impact on Students"
  • Engage in the "implementation of innovative approaches to teaching"
  • Provide "contributions to improved instruction and curriculum"

Dr. Baird is the Principal Investigator for The Baird Lab at SFSU and serves as the Student Core Leader for the SF BUILD program that seeks to promote diversity in biomedicine. For more on Dr. Baird, please see:

Baird Lab Profile Page
SFSU Chemistry Profile
SF BUILD Profile Page

Raynard Kington, M.D., Ph.D. Photo via SF BUILD

Dr. Norman C. Francis

"For nearly five decades the proud students and alumni of Xavier University of Louisiana have had the privilege and honor to experience the leadership of Dr. Norman C. Francis. With his recent retirement, we have had the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on what he has meant to Xavier and many generations of students. Dr. Francis has been recognized as an educational thought leader and innovator who has served in his position as president longer than any university president in the United States. When Dr. Francis took office in 1968, Xavier University already had a history of serving African-American students and providing a quality education. Over the next 47 years Dr. Francis would move Xavier beyond this foundation and lead the university into an expansion that has revolutionized higher education and physically changed the face of New Orleans. The discussions of Dr. Francis' legacy often omit the ripple effect his vision and leadership have had, and will continue to have, on health care. Xavier developed an environment where students could thrive in the area of sciences. Dr. Francis' foresight was particularly strong in the implementation and maturation of a model pre-med program."

Lydia Villa-Komaroff

President of Grinnell College
Former Deputy Director of the NIH

A molecular and cellular biologist who has been an academic laboratory scientist, a university administrator, and a business woman. She was the third[1] Mexican American woman in the United States to receive a doctorate degree in the sciences (1975) and is a co-founding member of The Society the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).[2] Her most notable discovery was in 1978 during her post-doctoral research, when she was part of a team that discovered how bacterial cells could be used to generate insulin.

Lydia Villa-Komaroff Photo via Wikipedia

CEC Insider's Report

The CEC continues working closely with all established and forming working groups to support CEC & Consortium wide deliverables. Currently the CEC is redesigning internal teams to facilitate communications and work platforms between the CEC and the rest of the Consortium. In addition, it is leading the Annual Meeting and Communications strategy. All CEC wide correspondence can be addressed to Nancy E. Calderón, who serves as the Center's Program Manager, and any of the CEC's leadership.

Annual Meeting
The CEC facilitated the shaping of the annual meeting's agenda by repeatedly soliciting input and feedback from the Consortium via formal written submissions and meeting discussions with sites and NIH representatives. In preparation for the Annual Meeting, the CEC is hosting Consortium wide Interactive Webinar Series (webinars) held on selected Fridays where each site presents a description of their interventions and discusses some of the challenges and successes surrounding those projects. The Calendar on the Intranet can be consulted for details on dates and other details. Sites have also been contacted to provide the final list of expected Annual Meeting attendees. Registration to the Annual Meeting is by invitation only. Nancy E. Calderón and Tatiana Vardanyan are leading the effort. Please contact them if there are any changes to your submission or if you have any questions.

Communication Working Group (Comm WG)
The Consortium wide Communications WG is expected to form and convene for the first time in the next few weeks. The CEC has asked each site's Principal Investigator and/or Program Manager to provide the contact information of the Communication Specialist to their site. If that role is currently unfilled, CEC requests each site to send their Comm WG representative to Nancy E. Calderón ASAP. Currently, the CEC is drafting a proposed Communication Strategy that will facilitate the interaction between sites and utilize existing platforms. The consortium wide Communications WG is expected to meet prior to the Annual Meeting to formalize the first strategy as a consortium wide communications strategy and to discuss it during one of the breakout sessions on October 28th.

Consortium Wide Evaluation Plan (CWEP)
Following a busy Winter/Spring working with our partners on their site-level evaluation plans, the CEC (Administrative, Data, and Evaluation Cores) worked diligently all summer on the Consortium-Wide Evaluation Plan (CWEP). At the end of August we convened meetings with both the Evaluation Working Group and the Data Working Group to review the draft plan and respond to comments and questions. We incorporated this feedback into a final draft which was presented to the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) on September 16th. The final version of the CWEP was under review by the ESC for 2 weeks and their vote to approve it is expected by no later than September 30th.

Implementation Report
The Data Core is working with the Administrative Core to develop the protocols for data collection once OMB review and approval is received. It has also been consulting with sites on data collection practices as needed per sites' requests. Currently, Drs. Christina (Tina) Christie & Heather McCreath are holding IRB calls with each site to ensure all materials are prepared for each site to get IRB clearance.

Data Sharing Agreement (DSA)
The Administrative & Data Cores worked very closely to draft the Consortium's Data Sharing Agreement (DSA) between all partners. The DSA has gone through multiple revisions and is currently under review by the National Institutes of Health/National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIH/NIGMS) and the ESC.

Consortium's Executive Steering Committee (ESC)
The Executive Steering Committee (ESC) voted in August on updated Hallmarks of Success that include NIH's latest suggested revisions. It is in the process of selecting a co-chair to work closely with the NIH/NIGMS & CEC leadership. The ESC has played a key role in the Annual Meeting planning by facilitating the dissemination of information to each site's team and providing comprehensive feedback from their staff.

Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Application
All three Cores (Administrative, Data and Evaluation) have also been working on the OMB application. It went to NIH/NIGMS for initial review during the summer. The OMB 60 day Federal Register Notice was posted on September 28th for open comment. The Data Core is working with the Administrative Core to develop the protocols for the data collection once the OMB application is approved. It has also been consulting sites on data collection practices as needed per site's request. Currently, Drs. Christie and McCreath are holding IRB calls with each site to ensure all materials are prepared for each site to get IRB clearance.

Recruitment & Retention Working Group (RWG)
The Recruitment and Retention Working Group has held monthly meetings with BUILD and NRMN site representatives since February of this year. In addition to site-reported updates on progress with student and faculty recruitment and retention, we have had three dynamic presentations from both BUILD and NRMN site representatives on particular topics of interest and need. Vanessa Cisneros, Communications Coordinator for California State Northridge's BUILD PODER, shared strategies and best practices for using social media to bolster BUILD branding, recruitment and overall engagement efforts. JK Vishwanatha, Recruitment Working Group Faculty Lead for NRMN, provided sites with an overview of NRMN mentor categories, successful approaches to mentor-mentee matching, and faculty recruitment strategies. Lastly, Mica Estrada, SF State BUILD Evaluator, shared best practices for retaining underrepresented minority students in longitudinal research studies. In the upcoming months we will continue to discuss and identify challenges and best practices for recruiting student and faculty participants, as well as sustaining and maximizing their levels of engagement.

In the News

CSULB Receives Significant Grant to Fund Next Five Years of RISE Program
The recently funded Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program operated by California State University, Long Beach "will use the funding to create a pipeline of CSULB students who come from backgrounds underrepresented in the biomedical sciences who will go on to enter Ph.D. programs in related fields and become biomedical researchers... In order to accomplish these goals, RISE will provide its students research opportunities to work with a skilled faculty research mentor from CSULB. Students will also participate in training activities that enhance scientific knowledge and research skills and have access to financial and education resources. Students will also have the chance to travel and present their own work at a national level."

Q&A: Diversity, access and success will be priorities for incoming Provost Yi Li
"Incoming CSUN provost Yi Li officially begins his tenure next month as the college's vice president for academic affairs." In an interview, Li explained to The Sundial how his "personal and professional background will help address the diverse needs... at CSUN." Additionally, Li stated that "CSUN has already been an exemplary campus for that kind of experience by supporting that diversity and inclusion in all areas... . To me, it's not just [about] bringing students in but making sure they become successful, so this is very important and I would like to see that experience and how that will help to enhance what is already been great here. It is very close to my heart that I'm able to do that and it's very important to me as a provost to be part of this entire strategy of closing achievement gaps among different populations and make sure that every student-it doesn't matter from which walk of life-[can] enjoy the same opportunities and success."

Verizon Invests in STEM Education for Black Males
"Executives from Morgan State University and the Verizon Wireless Foundation announced a new partnership Tuesday in Baltimore aimed at exposing minority males to STEM via HBCU campuses."

Innovative program promotes diversity in the sciences
"This summer, 11 SF State undergraduates are participating in intense training labs as part of SF BUILD... Over the summer, the students are participating in three SF State labs covering different aspects of community-based research, followed by four weeks of clinical research training at University of California, San Francisco. For the next two years of their academic career, the students will work closely with a faculty member on a research project with a local connection that is personally relevant to them."

The Biomedical Learning and Student Training program is offering scholarships to qualified students
"The Biomedical Learning and Student Training program [at UAF] is offering scholarships to qualified students for the 2015-2016 academic year. Awards will be given to students with an interest in biomedical or health research careers and will cover tuition, fees and living expenses...BLaST aims to engage students from diverse backgrounds, especially those from rural Alaska, in biomedical research as a way to foster their interest and success in biomedical and health careers."

An agenda for success, together
President Antoine M. Garibaldi of University of Detroit Mercy states "Last October, UDM, along with our partners Wayne State University, Marygrove College and Wayne County Community College District, received a five-year, $21.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to educate more students for careers in the biomedical sciences. This important scientific and medical need is evidence that Michigan's "job gap" for "dirty jobs" talent must also include unfilled talent that require lab coats and a healthy dose of science knowledge. Our REBUILD Detroit initiative, one of only 10 selected nationwide, will solve that problem."

Underserved Students Not as Likely to be Ready for STEM Careers
"Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, said there is a need for the country to surround and support students of color desiring to pursue STEM fields."

UTA hopes to increase underprivileged or minority students seeking graduate degrees
"Statistically, fewer underprivileged and minority students at universities nationwide pursue advanced degrees in healthcare fields. UT Arlington has joined a consortium of universities that hopes to expose undergraduate students to research early in their academic careers and increase their chances of continuing their education beyond a bachelor's degree. Bioengineering Professor Kytai Nguyen is leading the UT Arlington effort."

Minority Ph.D.'s Find Career Success in STEM
"The University of California at Irvine, like most across the nation, has much greater diversity in its undergraduate population than in its graduate programs. Although UC-Irvine will soon be designated a Hispanic Serving Institution, with more than 25 percent of undergraduates identifying as Chicano/Latino, we have much lower representation of minority students at the graduate level."

Hopkins Engineering dean joins other leaders in pledge to increase diversity
"Ed Schlesinger, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, joined leaders of more than 100 leading U.S. engineering schools in pledging to take steps to increase opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups to pursue meaningful careers in engineering."

'The Next MacGyver' competition aims to encourage more women to pursue STEM
"...a 2011 study from the U.S. Department of Commerce found that 'women with STEM degrees are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation'...A major goal of The Next MacGyver competition is to increase these numbers, hopefully inspiring young girls to engage with STEM subjects in school after having grown up with a female engineer headlining a major action series."

A Prescription for More Black Doctors
"Today, Xavier's campus is mostly wedged between a canal and the Pontchartrain Expressway in Gert Town, a neighborhood in the western part of New Orleans. It has some 3,000 students and consistently produces more black students who apply to and then graduate from medical school than any other institution in the country."

Consortium Events

  • Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Annual Confernece

    Date: October 29, 2015 08:00 AM
    Location: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, Maryland (8 miles south of Washington, D.C.)
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    The Diversity in STEM Conference.
    Interdisciplinary. Highly Interactive. Transformative. The SACNAS National Conference motivates, inspires and engages participants to achieve their highest goals in pursuing education and careers in STEM fields.

  • 2015 NIH Diversity Consortium Annual Meeting

    Date: October 27, 2015 07:00 AM
    Location: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center 201 Waterfront St, National Harbor, MD 20745 Phone: 301-965-4000
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    The National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH/NIGMS) invites you to participate in the 2015 Annual Meeting to be held in National Harbor, Maryland
    Our Vision: A diverse U.S. biomedical Think-Force improving the nation's health.
    Our Mission: To leverage the power of the consortium to create generalizable knowledge and offer best practices that optimize institutional commitment to diversity, and faculty and under-represented student's career success in biomedical science.
    Please submit your registration by October 16th, 2015 at:

  • Association for Academic Minority Physicians (AAMP) Annual Scientific Conference

    Date: October 23, 2015 08:00 AM
    Location: Hilton Alexandria Mark Center 5000 Seminary Road Alexandria, VA 22311 (703) 845-1010- (800)-445-8667
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    The Association for Academic Minority Physicians is pleased to announce its 28th Annual Scientific Meeting. The society wishes to encourage all interested investigators to submit their original research for possible presentation at the meeting. (Click here for AAMP site and registration details)

About Us

The NIH Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) Newsletter is intended to provide updates and announcements from DPC team members, highlight news related to diversity and professionals from underrepresented backgrounds in biomedical science, share progress on the collaborative efforts within the Coordination & Evaluation Center at UCLA (CEC) to inform Working Group's achievements, and ultimately serve as the main avenue to DPC-wide communications.

Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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