LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 19, 2019) – Through a recent five-year, $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), University of Kentucky faculty 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 science and health care.
The money will enable the creation of Innovative Programs for Enhancing Research Training (IPERT), focused on mentoring these faculty in grant-writing and teaching skills. In addition to Frazier and Spear, the project is led by campus-wide team of grant specialists and research faculty.
Frazier, whose name now adorns the UK Outreach Center for Science and Health Career Opportunities, is a UK professor emeritus and still serves as its 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 composed primarily of non-majority students. Frazier explains that these faculty members generally have fewer resources than their counterparts from Level 1 research institutions in proposal preparation and submission. That’s what his programs works to impact.
“It’s like anything else – the more help you have, the more eyes/voices, the more informed you can be, the better your chances,” he said.
The new grant will allow for an extension of this help into 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.”
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 though black, Hispanic/Latino and Native American together 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 though minority represent 31 percent of patients nationally, they only constitute 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?”
Seventy years ago, Lyman T. Johnson forced open the doors of the University of Kentucky by becoming the first African-American student. He, along with countless others, opened a door and created a path for us to follow. It’s the idea that anyone — regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, what they believe, how they identify themselves, or where they are from — can find a place at the University of Kentucky. Yet, our story demands that we acknowledge progress on this path has not been a straight line. There have been moments where we have, as an institution, not honored our aspirations. Those moments provide a compelling reminder that building a community of belonging is a journey, not a project. This month, as part of Black History Month, we are chronicling the stories of the trailblazers, innovators and champions, who bravely stepped forward or are pushing us ahead today. Their stories speak to us and guide us still.