DPC Newsletter

A decade of success for the Diversity Program Consortium

Volume 9, Issue 2

June 2024

A decade-long endeavor: Reflecting on the work of the Diversity Program Consortium

A decade-long endeavor:

Reflecting on the work of the Diversity Program Consortium

By Cynthia Joseph and Hansook Oh

For the past 10 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) has funded institutions nationwide in a historic effort to engage a broad field of individuals into the NIH-funded biomedical workforce. 

This decade-long endeavor, though coming to a close, continues to build an ongoing legacy of affirmative impact on a national scale.

The DPC is a trans-NIH program launched in 2014 as an initiative designed to develop, implement, assess and disseminate innovative training and mentoring approaches that were shown to be effective.  

This national collaborative is unique from similar programs for many reasons. The DPC focused on making impacts at the student, faculty and institutional level in a cohesive way. It also integrated social science research and psychosocial interventions with the process of training and mentoring students and faculty. And it rigorously assessed, evaluated or tested the training and mentoring interventions implemented by the consortium’s many grantees. 

Map illustration of BUILD program locations in the United States of America

Map of BUILD program locations in the United States

The DPC was made up of 12 grantees during the initial five years (Phase I) of its grant period.

Ten BUilding Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) programs, the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC). 

BUILD focused on engaging, training and mentoring undergraduate students, enriching and training faculty, wide-reaching curricular innovations and focused development of undergraduate research infrastructure.

These BUILD programs were based at undergraduate institutions all around the United States, from Fairbanks, Alaska, to El Paso, Texas, to Baltimore, Maryland. 

NRMN is also a DPC grantee program established in Phase I. Five institutions across five regional hubs worked to emphasize the importance of mentoring by creating a network of mentors and mentees across the country, providing in-person and online training, and offering professional development, workshops to train-the-trainer and resources for early-career faculty as well as undergraduate students. 

And finally, the CEC was established at the University of California, Los Angeles, to coordinate consortium meetings and communication, and conduct the Enhance Diversity Study (EDS), the multi-site, national longitudinal study that surveys students and faculty at BUILD institutions to evaluate the outcomes of BUILD programs.  Two waves of case studies and program-supplied activity information provided context for BUILD interventions.

Organizing the consortium

2015 DPC Annual Grantees Conference in National Harbor, MD

2015 DPC Annual Grantees Conference in National Harbor, MD

Consortium members worked to establish the requisite committees and working groups needed to share specific program goals and review local and national evaluation efforts. Coordination across members included the formation of the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) on November 6, 2014 and the charter approved on March 22, 2015 with the principal investigator of the BUILD program at the University of Texas at El Paso, Lourdes Echegoyen, PhD, as chair. In 2015 the Data Sharing Policy was approved and the Publications and Presentations subcommittee was formed with co-chairs Ambika Mathur, PhD, and Barbara Taylor, PhD. 

2014–2019 Annual Grantees Conferences with location listed

20142019 Annual Grantees Conferences with location listed

Across 2015 and 2016, working groups formed to discuss program implementation, evaluation, and communication.

Consortium members collaborated to develop the Hallmarks of Success, evaluation milestones that matched predicted short, medium, and long-term outcomes for student and faculty development and institutional change. 

The DPC established annual conferences for grantees to come together and share about their best practices and lessons learned, and to brainstorm innovative ideas for possible cross-site collaborations.

From the first meetings in 2014 to the July 2019 meeting at the close of Phase I, these early annual conferences provided an structured space for engagement and included talks to support ongoing work.

The themes and speakers reflected the DPC’s resolve to impact mentoring, student engagement, research capacity building, faculty development and institutional infrastructure for biomedical science research.

Phase II: Expanding impact while adapting to a global pandemic

In the second five years of the funding period beginning in July 2019, the consortium grew from 12 awardees to 40 awardees across the nation. The new grantees include seven DPC Dissemination and Translation Awards (DaTAs), 10 Sponsored Programs Administration Development (SPAD) programs, and 11 NRMN Science of Mentoring, Networking, and Navigating Career Transition Points awardees.

DPC DaTAs implemented scientific approaches to test the effectiveness of training, mentoring or research capacity building at their institutions. The SPAD awardees created or enhanced offices of sponsored programs at their institutions to increase support for faculty seeking research funding. 

The NRMN grew to include 11 new scientific investigations of mentoring interventions, supported by a new Coordination Center based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The network continues to maintain the web-based mentoring resources they developed during Phase I through the new NRMN Resource Center. 

Not one year into the DPC’s second phase came the disruptive global crises caused by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In this time of uncertainty and a sudden shift to remote learning, the DPC adapted to meet the needs of its students, faculty and institutional community. 

Within five weeks of the World Health Organization’s pandemic declaration in March 2020, the DPC hosted its first Virtual Research Symposium (VRS) to allow BUILD student trainees to present their research to a community of scientists.

These students no longer had the chance to attend in-person conferences, a crucial activity that helps develop their scientific skills and increases their competitiveness for future academic and career opportunities.

The DPC Communications Working Group organized the VRS with collaboration from the CEC. Students from BUILD sites shared their research by giving live talks or presenting posters in a virtual “poster hall.”

NIH officials were invited as moderators to host virtual presentation sessions with a live audience of students, faculty and researchers across the consortium. 

NIH DPC Virtual Research Symposium Celebrating BUILD student research across the DPC 2022, 2021

Virtual Research Symposiums 2020–2021

The VRS was not only a successful innovative solution to the immediate problems of spring 2020, but became a reliable alternative and model for virtual events during the following two years as the pandemic prevented conferences from meeting in-person until 2022. 

At the 2021 VRS, Alison Gammie, PhD, Director of the Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH, described the importance of helping BUILD student researchers.

“We have to do everything we can to support and train the next generation of scientists to ensure they come from a diversity of backgrounds to bring their talents and experiences to solve complex problems in medicine, including those that have to do with health disparities,” Dr. Gammie said.   

Phase II DPC Annual Conferences

2023 DPC Annual Grantees Conference in Westwood, CA

2023 DPC Annual Grantees Conference in Westwood, CA

In 2020, the DPC annual conference was canceled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and was replaced with a webinar responding to the social unrest calling for equity-minded strategies. 

Due to the recurring surges and uncertain travel guidelines, the 2021 and 2022 conferences were also virtual and focused on institutional change and capacity. Awardees across the consortium had to pivot programs and projects to online or hybrid versions with some unavoidable delays. 

Multiple publications addressed these impacts, including virtual innovations, impacts to productivity, student research experiences, stress, attrition and work-life balance. These publications can be found through the DPC website’s Resource Center.  

2020–2023 Annual Grantees Conferences with location listed

2020–2023 Annual Grantees Conferences with location listed

Annual conference themes responded to the new awardees and the ever-changing times. The planning committee, which provided format and content guidance, expanded to include representatives from the broadened consortium. 

The Executive Steering Committee also evolved into a leadership committee to ensure the needs of all awardees in the expanded consortium were heard and addressed. 

Fortunately, the consortium was able to meet together in-person for its last annual conference in 2023.

The DPC incorporated the remote participation element normalized during the pandemic with a hybrid format to support attendees from most projects and programs.  

Dr. Gammie had encouraging words for the consortium members at the last DPC conference, “Ending Well Together: Moving the Effort of the DPC Forward.”

“We know how hard this has been and we know how much work you've done and what you've taken on to be change agents at your institutions and in your academic fields,” Dr. Gammie said. “We're incredibly grateful and we really respect the work that you've done.”

She said the DPC’s initiatives have “really hit the mark” regarding vision, trust, communication, creativity, commitment and adaptability.

The findings and outcomes of the DPC’s innovative work have added to the growing body of scientific literature on interventions, programs or projects and their impacts on diversity, equity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine (STEMM).

A plethora of published works from DPC awardees are already available and searchable on the DPC website’s Resource Center.

The data from the Enhance Diversity Study (EDS) will be available in the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research Inter-University Consortium for Political & Social Research (ICPSR) repository in one year’s time. 

Alison Gammie, PhD, speaking at the 2023 Annual Grantees Conference

Alison Gammie, PhD, speaking at the 2023 Annual Grantees Conference

This legacy of study data can fuel continued investigation and build knowledge across multiple disciplines. 

However, one only needs to look at the real-life success stories  of those who have been supported by the DPC to see that the DPC has honored its aims to significantly impact the participation and persistence of individuals from many different backgrounds throughout the biomedical research pathway and transform the culture and efficacy of biomedical research training and mentoring nationwide. 

To gain more perspective about the DPC’s legacy, watch our various original video series featuring DPC leaders, faculty, students and alumni below. 

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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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