To reverse the projected shortfall of minority and female research physicians, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has developed a mentoring program in response to the NIH funding opportunity Professional Society Programs to Promote Diversity (RFA-DK-11-014) to engage underrepresented minorities and encourage them to pursue careers in medical and biomedical research. The proposed program, Investing in the Future to Promote Diversity in Gastrointestinal (GI) Training, leverages the experience and resources of the AGA to build upon successful initiatives that reach targeted underrepresented and minority groups over a five-year period. Critical strategic objectives are to recruit and retain underrepresented and minority (URM) students and to foster their academic and professional development. AGA committees working to achieve these goals include academic medicine and science, community physicians, trainees, URMs, women, and international colleagues. AGA proposes to build upon the Investing in the Future Program (IFP) by focusing on medical students and GI fellows at historically black educational institutions as well as expand recruitment of URM students into AGA's Student Research Fellowship Award Program. Both programs expose students to a range of basic, translational, clinical, and population research careers and opportunities as well as encourage them to pursue M.D. and M.D. /Ph.D. programs. Four highly respected academic gastroenterologists (i.e., Maria Abreu, Rick Boland, Bishr Omary, Vince Yang) with decades of experience as program leaders and mentors will serve as co-principal investigators (co-PIs) to provide administrative oversight of these efforts. In addition, 14 faculty members, together with the co-PIs, will serve as mentors to work with selected mentees over the 5-year period of the grant and beyond. Objectives include 1) nurture and strengthen interest of URM participants in pursuing gastroenterology as a specialization with special focus on research careers, 2) evaluate and track selected mentees over a 5-year period, and 3) write up and disseminate best practices to the medical community on this program.
Specific aims of the proposal are:
Aim 1 : Expand Investing in the Future Program to target underrepresented minorities at historically black medical colleges;
Aim 2 : Expand current URM Student Research Fellowship Award Program and offer a wide menu of potential mentors and research opportunities;
and Aim 3 : Build a URM-focused education and research forum within AGA-sponsored national meetings, including the annual Digestive Disease Week and Academic Skills Workshop. AGA has a long tradition of supporting pro-diversity initiatives. The proposed program extends this tradition to maximize the pool of talented young people entering the field of GI and hepatology and to serve the increasingly diverse U.S. population.
Progress and competitiveness in conquering serious and widespread conditions relating to digestive illnesses depend on increasing the number of physicians who choose to pursue careers in biomedical research. An important element contributing to the current shortfall of research physicians is the relatively low rate of participation among underrepresented and minority (URM) doctors. The situation is especially serious given U.S. Census Bureau predictions that African Americans and Hispanics will become a majority in the United States by 2050. If this pattern continues, we will face a severe shortage of physicians, physician scientists, and clinical investigators in a few decades.