The overall goal of our IRACDA program (Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching or FIRST) has been and continues to be the combination of a traditional mentored postdoctoral research experience at Emory or Morehouse School of Medicine, research-intensive institutions, with an opportunity for the fellows to develop teaching skills that involve instruction in teaching methods and a mentored teaching experience at one of the Atlanta University Center Schools (Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University or Morehouse College, all Minority Serving Institutions). Our combined program facilitates the progress of underrepresented minority postdoctoral candidates into research and teaching careers in academia and provides all program fellows with experience at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) that promotes the next generation of scientists at MSIs. Our program also strongly reinforces interaction among faculty at the Atlanta University Center (AUC) schools and their counterparts at the two research intensive institutions participating in this program. The objectives of our Program are four-fold: (1) to enhance research-oriented teaching at the AUC schools; (2) to increase or enhance the research backgrounds of developing scientists to conduct high quality research in an academic environment; (3) to further promote interaction between Emory University, the AUC schools, and Morehouse Medical School that will lead to further collaboration in research and teaching; and (4) to increase the number of well-qualified underrepresented minority students entering competitive careers in biomedical research. Evaluation of the Program shows that the fellows in the FIRST Program publish at the same rate as their peers supported on T32 grants at Emory and other institutions with IRACDA programs. The evaluation also shows that FIRST fellows enter academic positions and receive post-fellowship grant awards at the same rate as T32 fellows (based on NIH data). The program has benefited the MSIs by providing support for development and recruitment of new faculty some of which are FIRST fellows and providing new courses and training opportunities for MSI students.
Underrepresented minorities constitute a small fraction of the postdoctoral fellows in the life sciences and an even smaller fraction of principal investigators o NIH research grants. In addition, the number of underrepresented minority applicants for research grants and training positions is very low. The institutions of higher education in the Atlanta area have a unique opportunity to help address these problems and, at the same time, test a new model for post-doctoral training in which post-doctoral fellows have a traditional research-intensive experience, but also have an opportunity to engage in mentored teaching activities.
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