NIH-funded efforts seek support for diverse biomed research

A $19.2 million grant will fund the development of grant-writing seminars and the hiring of diverse researchers.

by Kelsey Christensen

The University of Minnesota’s Program in Health Disparities Research will share a $19.2 million grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health late last month that will provide professional opportunities for underrepresented researchers.

When compared to their white counterparts, biomedical investigators from diverse backgrounds are not funded at the same rate.

“The question of ‘why’ is what the NIH is exploring,” said Anne Marie Weber-Main, an associate professor of medicine who is helping the NIH-funded effort.

The University of Minnesota, along with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Boston College, Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and the University of North Texas, will use the recent NIH grant to hire several multicultural biomedical researchers and develop a grant-writing seminar series for diverse investigators seeking funding for their research projects.

Kolawole Okuyemi, director of the University’s Program in Health Disparities Research, said about a quarter of the institution’s Medical School students are minorities, as are 10 percent of the school’s faculty.

“This cannot continue,” he said.

Weber-Main said the NIH has known for years about chronic underrepresentation and is now taking steps to invest in attracting and supporting diverse researchers.

“For the University to be involved in this is outstanding,” she said.

With the help of the grant, Okuyemi said he believes the University will become a national hub for diverse medical researchers nationwide.

“We need scientists from all populations to be engaged to ask the right questions,” he said.