National heart, lung, and blood institute workshop summary: Enhancing opportunities for training and retention of a diverse biomedical workforce

Gregg A. Duncan, Angelia Lockett, Leah R. Villegas, Sharilyn Almodovar, Jose L. Gomez, Sonia C. Flores, David Wilkes, Xenia T. Tigno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Rationale: Committed to its mission of conducting and supporting research that addresses the health needs of all sectors of the nation's population, the Division of Lung Diseases, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NHLBI/NIH) seeks to identify issues that impact the training and retention of underrepresented individuals in the biomedical research workforce. Objectives: Early-stage investigators who received grant support through theNIHResearch Supplements to PromoteDiversity in Health RelatedResearch Programwere invited to a workshop held in Bethesda, Maryland in June, 2015, in order to (1) assess the effectiveness of the current NHLBI diversity program, (2) improve its strategies towards achieving its goal, and (3) provide guidance to assist the transition of diversity supplement recipients to independent NIH grant support. Methods: Workshop participants participated in five independent focus groups to discuss specific topics affecting underrepresented individuals in the biomedical sciences: (1) Socioeconomic barriers to success for diverse research scientists; (2) role of the academic research community in promoting diversity; (3) life beyond a research project grant: non-primary investigator career paths in research; (4) facilitating career development of diverse independent research scientists through NHLBI diversity programs; and (5) effectiveness of current NHLBI programs for promoting diversity of the biomedical workforce. Measurements and Main Results: Several key issues experienced by young, underrepresented biomedical scientists were identified, and solutions were proposed to improve on training and career development for diverse students, from the high school to postdoctoral trainee level, and address limitations of currently available diversity programs. Although some of the challenges mentioned, such as cost of living, limited parental leave, and insecure extramural funding, are also likely faced by nonminority scientists, these issues are magnified among diversity scientists and are complicated by unique circumstances in this group, such as limited exposure to science at a young age, absence of role models and mentors from underrepresented backgrounds, and social norms that relegate their career endeavors, particularly among women, to being subordinate to their expected cultural role. Conclusions: The factors influencing the participation of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical workforce are complex and span several continuous or overlapping stages in the professional development of scientists from these groups. Therefore, amultipronged approach is needed to enable the professional development and retention of underrepresented minorities in biomedical research. This approach should address both individual and social factors and should involve funding agencies, academic institutions, mentoring teams, professional societies, and peer collaboration. Implementation of some of the recommendations, such as access to child care, institutional support and health benefits for trainees, teaching and entrepreneurial opportunities, grant-writingwebinars, and pre-NIH career development (Pre-K) pilot programs would not only benefit biomedical scientists from underrepresented groups but also improve the situation of nondiverse junior scientists.However, other issues, such as opportunities for early exposure to science of disadvantaged/minority groups, and identifying mentors/life coaches/peer mentors who come from similar cultural backgrounds and vantage points, are unique to this group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-567
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Biomedical research
  • Career development
  • Diversity programs
  • Postdoctoral
  • Underrepresented minorities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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