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Southeast Training Hub at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus

By December 6, 2016No Comments

NRMN UPR Group Photo

The NRMN Southeast Training Hub University of Puerto Rico kick-off event took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov. 16-18, 2016. Here the entire group of faculty and staff from NRMN and UPR gathered for a group photo.

Written by Ann Smith
Edits and photos by Meldra Hall

“This collaborative and homogenized effort engaged various stakeholders at all career levels and employed a mentoring approach that provided a unique training opportunity.  These coaching sessions designed to accelerate the professional development of diverse scholars, equips investigators with the necessary skills to address complex scientific challenges.  We are pleased with this successful kick-off and look forward to fruitful returns on the investment.”

– Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, FACC

“Our first strategic goal is research. Enhancing the research portfolio and creating opportunities for students and young faculty is a top priority. Mentoring is one of those tools to achieve our goals and we are delighted to have this collaborative effort on our campus.”

-Noel J. Aymat, DMD FAAPD JD

November 16-18, 2016 – The National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) Southeast/Deep South Training Hub held a kick-off event in San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 16-18, 2016. The event was hosted by Morehouse School of Medicine, through the NRMN Research Resources and Outreach Core (RROC) PI, Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, FACC, and her team, and the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus (UPR MSC). It was collaboratively supported by the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC), the Center for Collaborative Research in Health Disparities (at UPR MSC), the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (at UPR at Cayey) and the RCMI Translational Research Network (RTRN). This multifaceted event included coordinated support across the NRMN Cores, as faculty and staff from all five cores contributed in some way to it.


NRMN Research Resources and Outreach Core (RROC) leadership after the successful completion of the Southeast Training Hub Kick-off at UPR Medical Sciences campus. Ann Smith, UAB Director of Training for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, Jonathan Stiles, PhD RROC Associate Director, Priscilla Pemu, MD, MSCR, FACP RROC Co-Investigator, Adriana Baez, PhD RROC Associate Director, Winston Thompson, PhD RROC Co-Investigator, Meldra Hall, MPH RROC Research Assistant, Brenda Delgado Rivera, UPR Research Administrator III, and Japera Johnson, PhD RROC Research Associate (Left to Right).

The two and a half-day event included grant writing coaching sessions, mentor training, a mentoring institutional planning forum, and a speaker series focused on helping new health equity investigators pursue research independence. A Coaches’ Training session took place the first afternoon.

Participants included senior faculty, junior faculty, and post-doctoral fellows, as well as institutional leaders, administrative staff and program directors from institutions across the island of Puerto Rico. Six senior faculty coaches led the grant writing training for 16 junior faculty and post-docs, while 30 faculty participated in the mentoring training. Twenty institutional leaders and administrators participated in the institutional planning forum.

img_6237NRMN Grant Writing Trainees discussing unique challenges and motivations as minority investigators pursuing NIH awards during a working lunch in the Getting the Grant session (led by Priscilla Pemu, MD, MSCR) at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences campus.

Day one began with the Coaches’ training session on a Novel Coaching-Group Approach to Developing Grant Writing Skills, led by Richard McGee, PhD, NRMN Program Director for the Northwestern University model Grant Writers Coaching Group, and new coach trainer Jeffrey Engler, PhD , who trained as an NRMN Coach at the SETH event in Atlanta last May.

img_6206Rick McGee, PhD NRMN Program Director and Jeff Engler, PhD NRMN Lead Coach make introductory remarks as they open the Grant Writing session for NRMN Scholars during the Southeast Training Hub Kick-off at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences campus.

Day two opened at the UPR MSC Amphitheater, with a warm welcome by Adriana Baez, PhD – NRMN Associate Director, and Professor of Pharmacology & Otolaryngology, UPR Medical School, and Noel Aymat-Santana, DMD, JD, Chancellor of UPR Medical School. Dr. Ofili provided an overview of NRMN and outlined the agenda for the group of approximately 60 faculty gathered in the plenary session.

Dr. Baez remarked, “The event was very stimulating by being interactive and practice-oriented. There were diverse participants from various institutions in Puerto Rico that allowed for fruitful interactions, and at the end they left with lots of energy and enthusiasm, and definite plans for the near future.”


Ann Smith, MPH UAB Director of Training Program for the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center and Meldra Hall, MPH NRMN Research Resources and Outreach Core Research Assistant prepare to register trainees for the Southeast Training Hub Kick-Off event at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences campus.

Next, these faculty from across the island of Puerto Rico broke into separate groups to attend concurrently, the Grant Writing Coaching sessions, led by Dr. McGee and Dr. Engler, and Research Mentor Training, led by Christine Pfund, PhD, NRMN Mentor Training Core PI, and Kermin Martinez-Hernandez, PhD, NRMN Master Facilitator.

The Grant Writing Coaching group participated in the overview of the grant writing coaching sessions, followed by the breakout sessions into coaching groups, with a coach and 4 junior faculty divided by the type of research – basic, clinical or social/behavioral. In the coaching groups, each grant writer presented their specific aims of their proposed research to the group for review and feedback. This face-to-face kick-off session launches a six- to eight-week period when the groups will reconvene via webinars to continue review and refinement of the grant proposals, with the goal of submitting the finalized grant applications in six months.

img_6211Christine Pfund, PhD NRMN Mentor Training Core PI, Adriana Baez, PhD NRMN Research Resources, and Outreach Core (RROC) Associate Director, and Ann Smith, MPH UAB Director of Training Program for the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (Left to Right) prepare for their respective training events during the Southeast Training Hub UPR Kick-off training event at UPR Medical Sciences Campus.

The Mentor Training group participated in a full day of discussions on maintaining effective communication, addressing equity and inclusion, aligning expectations, fostering independence, promoting professional development and mentoring action plans. They also had breakouts with small group discussions on undergraduate, biomedical, and clinical and translational research mentor training.

Day three had concurrent sessions for grant writers and institutional leaders. The grant writing group participated in professional development discussions, Deconstructing NIH and Getting the Grant. Deconstructing NIH, led by Dr. McGee and Dr. Engler, provided the grant writing faculty with more information for gaining research independence. Getting the Grant, led by Priscilla Pemu, MD, MSCR, FACP – NRMN Co-Investigator Facilitator, was strategically designed to explore the unique challenges and motivations of diverse scholars and allowed in depth discussions. Dr. Pemu notes that “With the Getting the Grant session, we created a space that allowed investigators to engage in fruitful discussion where rough patches along their career trajectory were highlighted along with the tools used to overcome those challenges. From the report out trainees gave at the end, this session proved to be productive and worthwhile.”  While these discussions took place, Dr. Pfund led a small group discussion on Advancing Implementation – Building Research Mentor Training Capacity.

The final day also included an Institutional Mentoring Academy Planning Forum, an engaging workshop led by RROC Co-Investigator Winston Thompson, PhD, and RROC Associate Director Jonathan Stiles, PhD. This was followed by a talk led by Dr. Baez and Emma Fernandez-Repollet, PhD, RCMI Principal Investigator, on a Mentoring Academy Model for Puerto Rico. A response from a trainee noted “I am very excited and confident that your coaching and advice will be essential not only for the success of my grant application but for my development as an effective writer.”  They wrapped up the morning with a mentoring and institutional planning discussion. Overall the NRMN SETH UPR MSC Kick-off was a big success, and the work continues!

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