The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development at Vanderbilt University (V-IMSD) seeks to continue advancing diversity and inclusion in our PhD graduate programs. V-IMSD is firmly grounded in a successful 15 year history of the Vanderbilt IMSD in promoting diversity, so that we have become a top producer of PhDs awarded to historically underrepresented students. We know that diversity in all its forms, including a diversity of individuals, thoughts, and approaches, will be essential to adequately prepare the next generation of scientific investigators and realize the potential of biomedical research. And yet we also know that the benefits of diversity are only fully realized through inclusion. Thus, V-IMSD will serve as an essential catalyst for creating a more inclusive training environment. Reflecting the inextricable link between diversity and inclusion, the purpose of this training program is to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds and identities not only acquire the knowledge and skills to pursue successful careers in biomedical research and related areas, but do so in an environment that provides a sense of belonging, where they are comfortable bringing their authentic self to the training experience and empowered to reach their full potential. We plan to continue the IMSD programming that has led to substantial gains in diversity. Our current programming covers five key competencies: research excellence, oral and written communication skills, leadership and management, teaching skills, and responsible conduct of research. Going forward, V-IMSD will expand programming to cover additional competencies such as study design and reproducibility, and quantitative skills. Students will matriculate into V-IMSD as first and second year students, staying associated with the program until degree completion. This enables the development of a community of scholars modeled on Wegner's ?community of practice.? Through (1) joint enterprises, such as Data Club, Journal Club and Writing group, (2) mutual engagement, in the form of networking, peer mentoring and social/recreational events, and (3) shared accomplishments via the annual town hall, newsletter, and social media tools, we build a community that offers the mentoring and psychosocial support needed for the success of diverse students. While working to sustain the level of diversity we have achieved in our biomedical PhD programs, we plan to take the training experience to the next level with a focus on improving the inclusivity of our training environment, providing mentee education, or ?mentoring up? to help mentees engage with agency in their mentoring relationships, expanding quantitative and computational training, especially for trainees who are not comfortable with these skill sets, leveraging our career development resources in a more UR-centric way, and developing strategic partnerships with the discipline-specific T32 training programs to ensure all students benefit from V-IMSD programming and our leadership efforts on inclusion, particularly focusing on mentorship that is effective and intentionally responsive to different identities.
Biomedical research holds great promise for finding better treatments and hopefully cures for a range of debilitating and/or fatal diseases, but the innovation and problem solving needed to harness the potential of biomedical research requires a diverse group of individuals who generate new perspectives and more inventive solutions. Given that diversity is critical to biomedical research, it is important to acknowledge that the benefits of diversity are only fully realized through inclusion. The purpose of the IMSD at Vanderbilt is to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds and identities not only acquire the knowledge and skills to pursue successful careers in biomedical research and related areas, but do so in an environment that provides a sense of belonging, where they are comfortable bringing their authentic self to the training experience and empowered to reach their full potential.