Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders

‘The joy of teamwork’ — Kola Okuyemi, MD, MPH, says peer feedback makes work more meaningful

By Melissa Simon

March 20, 2024

Results from studies take time, but for Kola Okuyemi, he’s already seen positive impacts from his research on grant writing interventions for a diverse biomedical workforce.  

In the next part of the Diversity Program Consortium series, “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders,” Okuyemi, MD, MPH, shares how peer-to-peer feedback and a desire to participate in mentor training were key in his National Institutes of Health U01 research grant, affiliated with the DPC’s National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN).

Okuyemi is the principal investigator and director for the NRMN’s professional development core. He was also chair of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah. As of Feb. 1, Okuyemi began his new roles as OneAmerica Professor of Preventive Health Medicine and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Okuyemi is also the school’s Associate Dean for Health Equity Research and Implementation.

Read the Q&A below to see what Okuyemi said about his work with the DPC. Watch his full interview, “The joy of teamwork.” 

Q: What are some of the goals of the project you work on for the DPC?

A: The primary goal of the project, really it's a research study to test whether . . . offering a grant writing intervention [for a] six-month duration versus . . . 18 months . . . works better, the same or not as well. . . . The second modality that we're testing in the intervention is whether . . . a structured mentoring engagement works [or] makes difference versus freelance, unstructured mentoring. So, [we’re seeing if] providing grant writing and intervention in these various ways [if] it enhances the probability of getting a grant funding.

Q: What is one of the biggest impacts of the project so far?

A: The study is still going on but this would be, as far as we know, . . . the first time you actually get to study with a rigorous design to know . . . what type of grant writing intervention is effective. Providing grant writing interventions by itself is not new, but what elements are effective really have not been tested in a research setting. So, one of the biggest impacts will be to be able to answer these questions.

Q: What is something positive that’s happened as a result of your project?

A: Even though we're still waiting for the final results . . . what's really been exciting is the response. [It] has been overwhelming [and] eye-opening or, you know, really validating that despite all the great mentoring work and learning that is happening . . . what we're doing is . . . creating a specialized advanced level of intervention that would get them to that . . . highly competitive edge, which is what is needed to get funding in this economy.

Q: What is the most meaningful lesson you learned from your project?

A: One of the most meaningful lessons that we have learned is the joy of teamwork. . . . [We have] one coach for about four to six participants and these folks have never known each other before, they [are] just meeting for the first time in the program, and part of the process we use is to allow . . . peer feedback. . . . When I hear comments about how invaluable that [feedback is] from their peers . . . and how much that makes their work better and more meaningful and you see how eager folks are to contribute to each other's work, you know that's quite impressive.  

Q: What do you hope will be the legacy of your work?

A: The legacy is that grant writing coaching groups are multiplying all across the country and . . . people are paying money to learn from NRMN in how to train mentors, both in the general mentor training or also in the culturally aware mentoring. So, this to me is a success story that NRMN actually achieved its purpose and the legacy is going to live much longer than the funding period.

Q: What advice would you give to a future researcher?

A: Research is about discovery and without discoveries, there can’t be progress in science. . . . I think there's something exciting about being part of creating knowledge, about being part of making discoveries that will improve lives.

Okuyemi’s interview is part of the “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders” series that will be released through the spring of 2024.

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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.

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