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ROCHESTER, Minn. — For more than 25 years, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, which provides Ph.D. degree biomedical research training, has been on a mission to change the face of research to include more scientists from backgrounds underrepresented in science. The school just received renewal of a five-year ($2.2M) National Institutes of Health (NIH) federal grant to continue those efforts.
“We are extremely proud of our 26-year collaboration with NIH, and our collective long-term commitment toward ensuring America’s future biomedical research workforce reflects the rich diversity of our nation,” says Jim Maher, Ph.D., principal investigator of the grant. He notes that the renewed grant is one of three major NIH grants that are combined with funding from Mayo Clinic to support the school’s diversity mission. Dr. Maher is dean of Mayo Clinic’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Bernard Pollack Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.
According to the National Science Foundation, these groups are underrepresented in science:
Yet according to Census Bureau projections, the U.S. is projected to become more racially and ethnically diverse, with more than half of all Americans projected to belong to a minority group by 2044.
Dr. Maher says bringing together scientists and research trainees from many different backgrounds creates robust learning environments and innovative research fueled by many unique perspectives and life experiences. The mélange of diverse researchers and physician-scientists working side by side to transform scientific discoveries into breakthrough therapies and critical advances for unmet patient needs also better represents the patient populations who could benefit from their discoveries.
Yet traditionally, women, people with disabilities and many minority students have encountered less access to or encouragement to take science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses in high school and college. They also may have encountered fewer undergraduate research opportunities, making the transition to graduate-level research training and long-term careers in biomedical sciences more difficult.
Mayo’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences uses the renewed NIH grant to give these students a better chance at success through a transformative program called the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development. Initiative participants are selected from the student body of nearly 200 pre-Ph.D. and pre-M.D.-Ph.D. students at the Mayo school’s campuses in Arizona, Florida and Rochester.
The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program provides a two-year fellowship at the outset of a student’s Ph.D. training, focusing on professional development, communication skills, lab studies and personalized research mentorship and counseling. The program has proven to be successful, with more than 90 percent of participants graduating with a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. in their intended biomedical research discipline. The graduates who receive this transformative research training go on to a broad range of careers, poised to accelerate discovery and innovation, and advance science and the practice of medicine around the globe.
“We have the opportunity to transform the face of biomedical research with students from diverse backgrounds who are extremely talented and bright ─ who may not have had as much exposure to research, but who have so much potential,” says Karen Hedin, Ph.D., Mayo’s co-leader of the renewed grant. “It’s amazing and fulfilling to see how the students grow throughout the program and witness the unique contributions they bring to their teams and biomedical research as a whole.”
The long-term impact of the NIH grant and Mayo’s Student Development program keeps growing, as many who graduate as diverse researchers and physician-scientists become role models for future students from different ethnicities and backgrounds. Many go on to tackle biomedical research geared toward specific patient population diseases or issues. For those who have successfully fulfilled what may have seemed an unreachable career goal, they are eager to pay it forward.
About Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences has a long history of preparing students for careers as competitive, independent research investigators. The school currently offers Ph.D. degree research training in seven areas of biomedical specialization, along with one of the first interdisciplinary regenerative medicine research training programs in the country. Students within the school have the opportunity to train with world-class researchers at Mayo Clinic campuses in Rochester; Jacksonville, Florida; and Scottsdale, Arizona.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, comprehensive care to everyone who needs healing. Learn more about Mayo Clinic. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network.