In early June, 2017, the MERIT Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hosted the national IRACDA Annual Conference. The theme of the conference was “Forging Research, Teaching, and Diversity in Science.” The opening plenary session featured Dr. Andrea Morris, Director of Career Development at Rockefeller University sharing thoughts on sustaining leadership in diversity and inclusion. The second keynote presentation was given by Dr. Kay Lund, Director of NIH Workforce Development Division, a career panel led by IRACDA Alumni and many concurrent workshops with topics ranging from Effective Strategies for Early Career Investigators to Research in the Classroom to Mentoring Undergrads at Minority-Serving Institutions. On Day 1, Dr. Raymond Samuel (NRMN IRACDA Plus co-I), Dr. Wandinger-Ness (NRMN IRACDA Plus subaward PI) and Dr. Sonya Horsford (H&H Strategies) led a Workshop Entitled: “Effective Strategies for Early Career Investigators to Stay on Track and Achieve Success” The workshop had 15 pre-registrants and 37 attendees. The intensive interest, motivated the launch of an online course (June 26-July 31) to aid workshop attendees to continue with their step-by-step design and implementation of an individualized Logic Model. Logic models have demonstrated utility as systematic career planning and evaluation devices. On Day 2, Dr. Christine Pfund, NRMN PI co-led a session on mentoring and diversity in science with Dr. Sparkle Williams, an IRACDA-MERIT scholar from UAB. This interactive session included an opportunity for participants to watch a scenario played out in front of them in which a mentor displays several micro-aggressions during a conversation with a mentee. Participants were then given the opportunity to reflect on what they saw and to discuss ways for mentees to respond to micro-aggressions and for mentors to eliminate such behaviors. Postodoctoral scholars from all the participating IRACDA programs had an opportunity to participant in a poster session to display their research or teaching in the past academic year as well as a variety of professional developments sessions.
The IRACDA program, funded by NIGMS, promotes partnerships between research-intensive institutions and partner institutions that “have a historical mission and a demonstrated commitment to provide training, encouragement and assistance to students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical research enterprise of the nation.” The IRACDA program provides postdoctoral scholars with the opportunity to combine research experience with development of their academic skills, including teaching (https://www.nigms.nih.gov/Training/CareerDev/Pages/TWDInstRes.aspx). In 2015, NRMN awarded a supplement entitled “IRACDA Plus” that included 12 IRACDA programs (PI: Dr. Angela Wandinger-Ness, University of New Mexico). The award supported IRACDA alumni to be part of learning communities, broadened the reach of NRMNet (nearly 300 new enrollees), and enabled alumni participation in the 2016 and 2017 national IRACDA conferences. Seventeen IRACDA alumni presented and/or led sessions at the 2017 annual national IRACDA conference through this NRMN subaward.
Following the IRACDA conference, Dr. Pfund travelled to the UAB campus to lead a mentoring session for the UAB Health Disparities Research Training Program (HDRTP). Dr. Pfund presented “Maximizing Your Mentoring Relationships” to the UAB HDRTP group at UAB and connected via video conference to Morehouse School of Medicine, Tuskegee University, Alabama State University, University of Alabama, University of South Alabama, Creighton University and others.
Dr. Pfund is pictured with UAB’s Drs. Mona Fouad, Henry Wang, & Ann Smith, as Dr. Wang receives UAB MHRC Mentoring Excellence Award, after the presentation. Dr. Wang, Professor and Vice Chair for Research, UAB Emergency Medicine, mentored HDRTP scholar Dr. Allison Jones. Ann Smith, HDRTP Program Director, works with Dr. Fouad, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, UAB School of Medicine, and Director of UAB Preventive Medicine and the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC). They collaborate with NRMN, linking the cores together and to training and education programs, to meet the goals of mentoring to diversify the biomedical workforce.