By Melissa Simon
October 2, 2023
Watch Lorenzo Ramirez's interview on YouTube (click above).
Ramirez's is the fourth in our "BUILDing Future Researchers" series highlighting BUILD scholars who graduated in the Class of 2022.
A legacy is the long-lasting impact of one’s work.
In a new Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) series, titled “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders,” various principal investigators talk about their programs and projects.
For Akshay Sood, MD, MPH, that legacy is found in the programs that can help faculty from underrepresented groups succeed in their careers.
Sood is the principal investigator for an NIH-funded U01 research grant affiliated with the DPC’s National Research Mentoring Network that explores innovative research mentor interventions for underrepresented faculty in the Southwest. He’s a tenured professor at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the assistant dean of Mentoring and Faculty Retention Activities at the UNM Health Science Center Office of Faculty Affairs and Career Development.
Read the Q&A below to see what Sood said about his work with the DPC. Watch his full interview, “The thrill of innovation” on YouTube.
Q: What is the project you work on for the DPC?
A: Our project focuses on faculty, particularly underrepresented faculty, in three Southwestern institutions: Arizona State University, University of New Mexico and Oklahoma University. The focus of our project is to come up with innovative interventions that would help the research mentors provide mentoring to junior faculty, particularly underrepresented groups in the Southwest. The two interventions that we are focused on [have two aims]: Aim one, which includes a faculty mentor development program; and aim two, which is a mentoring network ECHO program. ECHO stands for Extensions for Community Health Outcomes [and] it uses a virtual platform to basically telementor individuals.
Q: How did you become interested in mentoring?
A: I lived in India and . . . I was never quite exposed to mentoring like I was in this country. . . . One of the most important things a mentor does is to instill confidence, that's called the psychosocial support that is meant to provide encouragement, motivation. . . . Mentors can change the lives of people like me who always doubted themselves, giving them the vocabulary of medicine, empowering them with skills and opening up the doors. So, when you get those kinds of gifts in life you want to return [them to others].
Q: What is the most meaningful lesson you learned from your project?
A: I think the most important thing that I learned is that the pandemic created unusual stresses on the team, on the participants. And what I really learned in the study that we did is that even during times of stress, people can really actually come together and deliver and the stuff that we've been able to do during times of extreme stress caused by the pandemic is truly outstanding and I think our team is truly wonderful.
Q: What do you hope will be the legacy of your work?
A: I think the legacy that we would like is to tell underrepresented minority faculty that . . . there are things that you can do to actually improve your chances of academic success. These include mentoring and networking. We believe that we can put together programs that can help underrepresented minority faculty do well.
Q: What do you like about being a scientist?
A: I like [being a] scientist because of the thrill of innovation. An innovation makes healthcare easier, less expensive and more acceptable. I also think innovation is the way of the future. . . . We survive by innovation and science is the way to innovate and that's what I like the most about science.
Q: What advice would you give to a future researcher?
A: You should do research because it is meaningful . . . to you [and] to your communities and it empowers you to bring about change. Research is about innovation and the more you can innovate, the more change you can bring. Research also allows you to become a master in a certain area and mastery really gives you empowerment [and it] can really change the lives of people.
Sood’s interview is the first in the “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders” series that will be released through the spring of 2024.
SPAD & DPC DaTA
The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.