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NIH gives UK $2.3 million grant to help improve diversity in healthcare, science

Don Frazier, director of the UK Outreach Center, works with students from a kinesiology class at UK.

/ by UK HealthCare

Through a recent five-year $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), UK's Don Frazier and Brett Spear will partner with faculty from qualified minority-serving institutions across the U.S. and Puerto Rico to help improve diversity in healthcare and science. 

The money will enable the creation of Innovative Programs for Enhancing Research Training (IPERT), which will focus on mentoring these faculty in grant-writing and teaching skills. In addition to Frazier and Spear, the project is led by a campus-wide team of grant specialists and research faculty.

UK's impact on minority-led institutions

Frazier, whose name now adorns the UK Outreach Center for Science and Health Career Opportunities, is a UK professor emeritus and still serves as the center's director. He has high hopes for what IPERT will be able to accomplish.

“For the past 18 years, an NIH grant has allowed us to invite faculty from minority-serving institutions all over the country to UK’s campus,” Frazier said. “We’ve given them strategies and help in writing competitive research proposals. Now we can do more.”

These faculty members come from universities that have populations primarily made up of minority students. Frazier explains that these faculty members generally have fewer resources in proposal preparation and submission than their counterparts from Level 1 research institutions.

“It’s like anything else – the more help you have, the more eyes/voices, the more informed you can be, the better your chances,” Frazier said.

The new grant will also help form an ongoing mentorship program. After coming to UK’s campus, faculty members will be connected to others in their areas of interest. As they return to their own institutions and work on drafts, they will receive continual help and support.

“We will be able to provide interactive mentoring to enhance research skills,” said Frazier. “We will be able to continue with these faculty after they leave our workshops using our UK faculty as mentors/consultants.”

How diversity can affect healthcare

Frazier attributes this new grant to NIH’s initiatives to enhance diversity.

“From the perspective of Congress, using taxpayer money responsibly means supporting initiatives that help research faculty across all walks of life and geography,” said Frazier.

Reports from the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce indicate that although black, Hispanic/Latino and Native American populations constitute more a quarter of the U.S. population, they make up less than 9 percent of nurses and 6 percent of doctors.

Additionally, the American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity shows that although minorities represent 31 percent of patients nationally, they only make up 14 percent of hospital board members and 12 percent of leadership positions.

“In this field, we should include as many people as we can,” said Frazier. “Helping more diverse faculty receive more funding will impact the whole field.”

Ultimately, the program hopes to impact the future of the healthcare field as well. Providing diverse faculty members with funding will increase the examples and resources available to students at their institutions.

“We are working toward a trickle-down effect,” Frazier said. “Good ideas come from research. Who knows what small lab somewhere will come up with the next big idea?”

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