Collaboration will Help Recruit, Train, and Mentor Students from Underrepresented Groups.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.1 million grant to the University of Maryland Schools of Pharmacy (UMSOP) and Medicine (UMSOM) to create a training program to enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce.
The five-year Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program strives to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in the doctoral programs in the UMSOP’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSC) and UMSOM’s Graduate Program In Life Sciences (GPILS).
“This grant is a huge milestone and testament to the success of the entire PSC graduate program over the last five years in recruiting and mentoring underrepresented students,” said Peter Swaan, PhD, Chair of Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Associate Dean for Research and Advanced Graduate Studies, and Distinguished University Professor at UMSOP. “We look forward to working with our School of Medicine colleagues to build a diverse and competitive biomedical workforce through the IMSD.”
The IMSD program’s goal is to train a diverse pool of PhD students across the biomedical research spectrum, which is why the SOP and SOM are jointly hosting this program. Students will apply for admission to the graduate programs in PSC or GPILS. A team of faculty leaders from both schools will then select students for the IMSD training program, which will take 10 students per year—five in PSC and five in GPILS. The first group of students began in August.
“This grant program affords us the opportunity to create a graduate school experience that is uniquely tailored to the needs of our students, in which they know that their opinions are respected, their cultural identities and connections are valued, and their intellectual curiosities are nourished,” said Mark T. Gladwin, MD, Vice President for Medical Affairs at University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean at UMSOM. “Cultivating this type of inclusive academic environment is among our highest strategic priorities.”
Angela Wilks, PhD, the Isaac E. Emerson Chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the SOP and one of four principal investigators (PI) of the grant, added: “This award is not only an opportunity to increase the platform for underrepresented minorities on campus, but is also a chance to expose all our students to a diverse environment, We want to prepare our students to work in environments where diversity, equity, and inclusion are a hallmark of whatever they do.”
Mandy Oglesby, PhD, Associate Professor of PSC in UMSOP and PI of the grant, said she wants to help build a biomedical workforce that looks more like its community and the country.
“Diversity is incredibly important to the success of every industry,” Dr. Oglesby said. “When you have a diverse group of people working on a solution for a problem, you have more creativity and more representation in public health perceptions.”
Recruitment and Retention
Lisa Jones, PhD, a former faculty member at UMSOP who helped write the NIH proposal, said recruitment and retention are two major factors when it comes to diversification in biomedicine.
“Some students don’t think they can be scientists because of a lack of role models who look like them,” Dr. Jones said. “Our goal with the IMSD is to provide students with programming and mentoring to help them deal with issues that are unique to underrepresented populations.”
The IMSD grant aims to provide funding to address recruitment and retention gaps. It will cover first-year stipends for graduate students accepted into the program, conference travel, social events, and programming.
The grant is also directed by PIs Dudley K. Strickland, PhD, Associate Dean for Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies and Professor of Surgery at UMSOM, and Tonya J. Webb, PhD, Assistant Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UMSOM.
“This grant program directly aligns with our mission of improving the human condition and serving our community, which highlights our strengths as a stellar research, educational institution, and a health care provider,” said Dr. Webb. “To me, to be a part of our students’ journey is amazing. It is a chance to be part of something great by helping create this protected space for the next generation of aspiring scientists to thrive, which is incredibly rewarding. I am grateful.”
Dr. Strickland said, “The awarding of this grant to UMB will allow us to continue to recruit and support the best and brightest students in the country with an objective of providing scientific training that will enhance and increase diversity in all fields of science.”
SOP and SOM are working collaboratively to develop the program’s content, which will be catered to the IMSD students, including workshops on topics as wide-ranging as scientific writing to dealing with microaggressions to the various career tracks in the STEM fields. The grant is further supported by program administrators in each school – Kristina San Juan in SOP and Sharron Graves, DBA, in SOM.
“I am exceedingly proud of this new initiative to enhance the numbers of diverse graduate students in the sciences at the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine and of what it means for the future of academia and research,” said Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, FCP, Dean and Professor at UMSOP. “As only the second African American to earn a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences at the School of Pharmacy, I fully support initiatives like ours that seek to break down barriers, provide access and support, and create opportunities for all students to succeed on their chosen career path.”
The IMSD program emulates and derives from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program, a multi-year IMSD partnership with UMB. Other institutions implementing the NIH’s IMSD program include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Emory University, and the University of Arizona.
About the University of Maryland School of Medicine
Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world — with 46 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs, and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1.3 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic, and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has nearly $600 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of over $6 billion and an economic impact of nearly $20 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges profile) is an innovator in translational medicine, with 606 active patents and 52 start-up companies. In the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of the Best Medical Schools, published in 2021, the UM School of Medicine is ranked #9 among the 92 public medical schools in the U.S., and in the top 15 percent (#27) of all 192 public and private U.S. medical schools. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu
About the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy
Established in 1841, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is ranked 14th out of more than 140 schools of pharmacy by U.S. News & World Report. The School is a thriving center for professional and graduate education, pharmaceutical care, research, and community service. Its faculty create the future of pharmacy by pioneering new roles for pharmacists in advanced clinical practice and conducting cutting-edge research in drug discovery and development, comparative effectiveness and patient-centered outcomes, and disease management. A contemporary curriculum, innovative educational experiences, and strategic professional relationships help to inspire excellence in the School’s more than 1,200 students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows. The School offers 10 academic programs: Doctor of Pharmacy; PhD programs in Palliative Care, Pharmaceutical Health Services Research, and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and MS programs in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, Palliative Care, Pharmaceutical Health Services Research, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pharmacometrics, and Regulatory Science. With a research portfolio of more than $32 million in grants and contracts, the School is ranked 16th by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy amongst schools of pharmacy. In 2017, the School launched its exclusive Pharmapreneurship™ program, which describes the School's commitment to supporting and best positioning both faculty and students to achieve their career aspirations and address our nation's health care challenges.