Despite great advances in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, and major advances in clinical care, major health challenges remain that negatively impact public health. Addressing these challenges requires that the biomedical field draw from the broadest talent pool available. Yet, analysis of the trends in the biomedical sciences workforce and trainee pool consistently demonstrate that specific racial and ethnic groups remain underrepresented in this arena relative to their representation within the population of the United States. Therefore, programs that address the discrepancy in participation rates between different racial, ethnic, gender and/or socioeconomic groups, and promote the engagement of the maximum number of talented individuals are needed. In this application, we propose the implementation of a research training program, under the umbrella of the Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD), to alleviate this discrepancy at our institution, the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. The mission of the proposed IMSD is to facilitate the excellence of a cadre of talented young scientists from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. The program will achieve its mission through the development and deployment of: a series of academic and research activities that increase the excellence of participating students as biomedical scientists; professional development activities that prepare participants for success in a range of biomedical sciences- related careers; and the implementation of training workshops that shift trainee self-perception and mentor training capacity. These activities are expected to produce rigorously trained, successful young PhD scientists who will persist in biomedical sciences-related careers. The program will measure the success of its activities through the following metrics: 1) Increased student retention and completion rates. We expect to observe >90% retention through the successful completion of the Qualifying Examination at the end of year 2, and >85% successful completion of the PhD. These retention and completion rates will match or exceed the rates for the broader population of PhD trainees in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) at UMMS. 2) Decreased time to degree completion. The current average time to completion for PhD trainees in the GSBS is 6.4 years. We expect the time to degree completion for IMSD trainees to be shorter than for the average GSBS student. During the initial reporting period, we anticipate that the average time to degree will be 6.2 years, with the goal of achieving an average time to completion of < 6 years. 3) Increased student publications. We expect that IMSD participants will, on average, publish 4 papers during graduate study, including 2 as first author. These metrics are in line with the output of the broader GSBS population. 4) Successful attainment of individual fellowships. We anticipate that 50% of IMSD program participants will successfully compete for individual fellowships from the NIH or private funding agencies. 5) Attainment of desired post-graduate opportunities. We expect that IMSD participants will be top candidates in their chosen career paths. We further expect that 100% of IMSD participants will transition from PhD training to their preferred career path. 6) Increased sense of belonging at UMMS and self-identity as scientists. Through activities that increase the capacity of research mentors and other faculty to effectively mentor a diverse student population, as well as activities that increase students? self-identity as scientists, IMSD trainees will develop increased sense of belonging at UMMS and envision themselves as important contributors to the scientific enterprise at UMMS and in their future careers. The successful implementation of the program will increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds earning PhDs at UMMS, enhance the persistence of these newly minted PhDs in biomedical careers, and enhance the research excellence at UMMS by positively shifting the research training environment.
Effectively tackling the many complex factors that influence human health and disease requires the mobilization of the broadest talent base, comprised of individuals with different backgrounds, perspectives and talents. Yet, despite advances over the last few decades, the diversity of biomedical workforce does not reflect the broader population and therefore fails to tap into vast resources of available talent. The proposed training program seeks, in its small measure, to alleviate that lack of diversity by providing academic, research, professional development and networking activities that spur the recruitment, retention and excellence of individuals from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, and by so doing, improve the health of the population of the United States.