National data on career choices of emerging scientists indicate that less than 25% pursue a traditional independent pathway in an academic environment. This grim reality is even worse for underrepresented minorities (URM), who represent 39% of college age individuals yet only 13% of PhDs in life sciences. In 2015, we were awarded a NIGM R25 Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (Rush-IMSD). Rush R25-IMSD was charged with training pre-doctoral URMs in biological sciences at Rush University in Chicago, IL. Although Rush R25-IMSD was a budding program, we achieved an impressive track record in our first 5 years of training and retaining of PhD URMs students, some of whom received F31s and/or research supplement awards. This formal structure dedicated to URM PhD training, a first at Rush, was instrumental in building alliances to promote URM education within and outside of our university. Specifically, Rush R25-IMSD is a documented success aligned with institutional commitment for diversity and inclusion. With the recognition that minorities continue to be underrepresented in PhD life science programs, and consequently the biomedical workforce does not reflect the diversity of our nation, we propose a new program for training of URM PhD students at Rush University under a T32 mechanism (as NIGM is phasing out R25 IMSDs). The pillars of T32 IMSD-Rush is a triad of rigorous mentoring, education, and research training of pre- doctoral URM students through harnessing the expertise of nationally recognized mentors and program faculty across several departments. Three students per year will be selected to participate in T32 IMSD-Rush and supported for the first three years of matriculation (an additional participant will be under institutional support). Together, we expect a cohort of 20 students over five years. The overarching goal of T32 IMSD-Rush will be attained through two interrelated specific aims: 1) Train emerging URM scientists in technical and operational basis of discipline-based research: T32 IMSD-Rush will be inter-and multidisciplinary program for training of URM PhD students in one of several disciplines (immunology/microbiology, physiology and biophysics, cell and molecular medicine, neurologic sciences, orthopedics/bioengineering). Participants will select a discipline and be matched with a primary mentor who along with nationally recognized leaders will guide the research development of the participant from idea conception to successful execution (e.g., the operational phase of training include knowledge acquisition, rigorous experimental design and data interpretation). Participants will also be trained in highly innovative and cutting-edge technology that can be used across disciplines to address impactful scientific questions and discoveries through designated workshops in imaging (live cell imaging, CT scans, confocal microscopy), small animal models (animal care, humanized mice, transgenic rats), molecular approaches (RNA/DNA scope, quantitative gene knockdown), quantitative and computational approaches (high-input statistics, bioinformatics) and training in scientific reproducibility and rigor. The participants will be captured early and integrated into the program through pre-matriculation (summer) training modules. Milestones include submission and acquisition of NIH individual predoctoral awards (F31) or individual predoctoral to postdoctoral fellow transition award (F99/K00), publication of two peer-reviewed manuscripts, one of which as a first author, and successful completion of the PhD program. 2) Implement and optimize best practices for training of emerging URM science investigators: Classical mentorship relies heavily on scientific research prowess. There is a greater recognition and appreciation that mentorship should be a holistic strategy, combining training in rigor in research with professional skills and network/alliance building to facilitate the development of a well-rounded emerging scientist, one who will successfully face the challenges of academic research, in particular, and of science in general. T32 IMSD-Rush will provide URM mentorship through direct and regular one-on-one contact and organized activities through workshops to maximize each participant?s professional development. These programs will include training modules on poster and oral presentations, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, verbal and non-verbal communication, negotiations, financial budgeting/fiscal responsibility of running a team and/or lab, interviewing skills and most importantly building a culture of inclusion as a supportive network for URMs. Best practices will be used to train the participants. Mentors/program faculty will undergo mentorship training established by the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). Collectively, these initiatives are the cornerstones to ensure that T32 IMSD-Rush participants will be fully prepared to navigate the demands and challenges facing URM scientists. T32 IMSD-Rush will be evaluated through a well-integrated process to track, report, and assess long- term outcomes of trainees. Our findings will be shared through open dissemination of information and networking with organizations with similar interest. Our long-term goal is to increase enrollment of PhD URM students in biomedical sciences at Rush by at least 50%, with 90% successfully completing the program, and ?50% will choose post-graduate training. Also, we envision that T32 IMSD-Rush instituted model for graduate student training will evolve into a platform that has university and community sustainability and sustained partnerships.

Public Health Relevance

Minority students are underrepresented in PhD programs and in the biomedical workforce in general. The Rush Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) provides an innovative and a well-integrated approach to promote PhD completion by underrepresented minority (URM) biomedical students and provides IMSD participants with the tools to place them in a path of success thereafter. The program involves traditional/classical training activities for scientists including training in grant writing and oral presentations and professional development training activities such as time management and conflict resolution, to name a few. These integrated activities will enhance the skills of URM students to develop into productive scientists and professionals so that they complete the PhD program and become equipped with essential tools to navigate a rigorous career in biomedical research.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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NIGMS Initial Review Group (TWD)
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Brown, Patrick
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Rush University Medical Center
Schools of Medicine
United States
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