An important element contributing to the current shortfall of physician-scientists is the relatively low rate of participation among individuals underrepresented in medicine (URMs). The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), in its mission to advance the science and practice of gastroenterology, has a long and successful record of developmental programs designed to improve the diversity of the biomedical workforce in Gastroenterology. Starting from 2001, with Investing in the Future I and II, the AGA has developed curriculum and training to promote the recruitment and retention of URMs in gastroenterology (funded by NIH DK096968). Our conceptual approach has been highly successful, but up to this point, most of the URMs who the AGA has cultivated are focused on clinical care of patients with digestive diseases. The objective here is to build on these successes with a program focused on supporting the career entry and development for URM physician-scientists in gastroenterology. This program, Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity (FORWARD) Scholars, is based upon a needs assessment through surveys and focus groups where we identified factors that impede URMs' interest to pursue investigational or leadership careers. The co-principal investigators (co-PIs) and co-investigators of the current proposal Sheila Crowe, MD, AGAF, Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD, Jesus Rivera-Nieves, MD, AGAF and Byron Cryer, MD bring decades of experience in leadership development, program management, successful investigation and mentoring of early career physician-scientists. Along with these co-PIs, 13 senior physician-scientists with diverse research interests and backgrounds will serve as mentors to the FORWARD scholars. We expect to provide concrete skills to promote URMs in the pursuit of successful careers as physician-scientists through the following specific aims:
Aim 1 : Provide training for skill development in research careers;
Aim 2 : Provide skill development in leadership;
Aim 3 : Provide active mentoring. For the first aim, we will provide training in research development, writing scientific manuscripts, grant writing, and management of research groups. In the second aim, we will adapt our highly successful leadership development curricula to include general leadership development, leadership assessments, executive coaching, and opportunities for leadership experience within the society. Under the third aim, we will apply a diversity management plan focused on active mentoring approaches, using both one-on-one and network mentoring approaches to provide opportunities for broad support and sponsorship. Integrated with these aims will be robust evaluation plans for both formative and summative feedback. The approach is innovative because we will provide an integrated response to the obstacles identified by our surveys and focus group in a competitive group of early- career GI physicians. The proposal is significant because the research education program plan incorporates specific strategies to lower barriers and improve the likelihood that URM physicians will pursue careers in biomedical investigation.
The proposed project is relevant to public health because it is intended to address a key element of the shortfall of physician-scientists in the US by increasing the number of physician-scientists with backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. Our long-term goal is to enhance the diversity of the biomedical science research workforce in gastroenterology and to prepare individuals to assume leadership positions within the professional association and in academic medicine. The Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity (FORWARD) program will provide training, mentoring, and concrete skills to promote the pursuit of successful careers as physician-scientists.