The ability to make innovative discoveries in a scientific field such as clinical neuroscience is increased when its community of researchers has varying approaches, backgrounds, and experiences. However, diverse and underrepresented minority (URM) physician-neuroscientists, when compared with their representation in the US population, are inadequately represented among medical school faculty, are less likely to receive NIH research awards, and are less likely to be promoted likely due to significant cultural, societal, and financial pressures, as well as restricted access to role models and community support. A well- trained and sustained workforce of URM faculty is essential to clinical neurosciences research because URM faculty are more likely to engage in research that affect increasingly diverse communities, help recruit minority individuals for participation in research; and contribute a disproportionate amount of effort to mentoring URM trainees and early career faculty. The Training in Research for Academic Neurologists to Sustain Careers and Enhance the Numbers of Diverse Scholars (TRANSCENDS) program is a collaborative initiative between the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). TRANSCENDS will offer a two-year innovative, evidence-based mentored learning experience to URM clinical neuroscientists. The involvement of the AAN brings to this important effort, wide access to neurology disciplines, strong commitment to diversity, volunteer engagement from leaders in the field, worthwhile in-kind resources, and proven experience in implementing high- impact programs. Focusing particularly on post-residency subspecialty fellows and early career faculty (no more than 3 years out of training) from among racial/ethnic minorities and individuals with disabilities, the specific aims of the program are: 1) To select and retain a group of highly promising diverse junior faculty or post-residency fellows from a national pool of applicants who are committed to pursuing research careers in the field of clinical neurosciences; 2) To increase mentees' knowledge, skills, and motivation to pursue academic careers through intensive research training (comprehensive online Master of Science in Clinical Research degree program and AAN annual meeting Diversity Poster Session); 3) To enhance mentoring benefits and networking opportunities for URM Scholars (congruent one-on-one mentoring approach, AAN annual meeting mentoring and networking activities); 4) To evaluate the effectiveness of the Research Education Program. Measures for assessing Scholars? achievements will be monitored following program completion, and will include position(s) held; number of presentations at professional meetings and peer-reviewed publications; leadership positions held in academia and public service; and funding for investigator-initiated research projects or career development awards. TRANSCENDS will address a critical deficiency in the academic workforce by mentoring URM scholars to pursue independent careers in clinical neuroscience research. Successful execution of the program will establish a network of 24 well-trained URM neuroscientists, as well as a broader community of diverse clinical neuroscientists fully engaged in clinical neuroscience research, thereby expanding our collective capacity to reduce the burden of neurological diseases and build several next generations of URM neuroscientists.
It is imperative that all available talent from a progressively diverse US population is utilized to foster innovation and advance our ability to effectively prevent or treat neurological diseases. Part of this effort will require a firm commitment to training and supporting budding researchers from diverse backgrounds. The TRANSCENDS Program will train, mentor, and sustain a network of diverse neurologists committed to developing independent academic careers in clinical neuroscience research.