DPC Celebrates Advancing Capacity at 2022 Annual Grantees Conference 

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Contact Info: masimon@mednet.ucla.edu

By Melissa Simon 

Two themes emerged from this year’s annual Diversity Program Consortium conference: there is much to get done and little time to do it, and connection is key when doing research. 

On June 13 and 14, nearly 200 DPC members from across the nation came together for the two-day virtual 2022 DPC Annual Grantees Conference to share data and preliminary outcomes on approaches to mentorship, training and institutional capacity building, as well as hear updates from their peers in the consortium and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Alison Gammie, PhD, the director of the Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity (TWD) at the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and the DPC program lead, opened Day 1 with a short welcome to attendees. 

“One challenge for the future is how to sustain and disseminate the effective training, mentoring and networking interventions developed and tested by [the] Diversity Program Consortium,” Gammie said. “While NIH has a broad range of funding opportunities that can be leveraged, institutional change will be key to sustaining and promoting these activities to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce.”

Following Gammie, Marie A. Bernard, MD, the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) at the NIH, presented on new NIH programs focused on equity, inclusion and diversity, such as the UNITE initiative and the development of the COSWD 5-year Strategic Plan. She also highlighted funding opportunities.    

On Day 1, Kevin Eagan, PhD, from the Coordination & Evaluation Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, shared preliminary analyses of the BUILD programs and their impacts on undergraduate trainees’ persistence in biomedical majors and development of science identity. 

Additionally, Michael Sesma, PhD, moderated a symposium on sharing data about approaches to promoting more equitable research training capacity. The session featured speakers representing the BUILD, NRMN U01, DPC DaTA and SPAD awards. Sesma is the Chief of the NIGMS TWD Postdoctoral, Early Career and Workforce Development Branch. 

On Day 2, attendees chose from concurrent sessions on the following topics: understanding recruitment practices and retention strategies; suggesting analytic tools to explore effects of the pandemic on students; sharing lessons learned from the BUILD program; implementing a research training model; learning about factors that influence inclusion measures in STEM; creating pilot programs and monitoring their success; and overcoming challenges to publishing. 

Visit the conference website to view the conference program and other materials, and to read about the moderators, speakers and session leaders who presented during the two-day event. 

Researchers encouraged to share data and stories, ‘tell it like it is’

At the close of Day 2, session leads had the opportunity to briefly discuss what they talked about and answer questions from the audience. 

Robert Rivers, PhD, Program Director in the Office of Minority Health Research Coordination at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), moderated the closing session reflecting on the conference.

The purpose of this report-back portion was to reconnect with each other after exploring some “really deep questions and experiences, as well as roadblocks, strategies and next steps,” Rivers said. “We wanted [leads and co-leads] to share . . . what their session talked about in hopes of sparking greater conversation within and across this diverse network.” 

Christine Pfund, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a principal investigator (PI) for the NRMN Coordination Center, led a discussion on challenges and solutions to publishing research papers and additional ways to share consortium-related stories. Session participants created a list of the challenges and solutions to overcome those obstacles, which will be shared with the broader DPC community. 

“We talk about the need to publish papers, but the stories can be [shared] in lots of different ways and sometimes some of those other products are actually a better fit and a better connection point for the diverse stakeholders we're trying to reach,” Pfund said. 

The CEC’s Nicole Maccalla, PhD, said it is imperative for scientists to “tell it like it is” and share authentic stories. A five-person panel shared lessons about the DPC’s BUILD initiative and how it impacts student, faculty and institutional development.

Whether it was embracing all findings, both negative and positive, or overhauling curricula, Maccalla said there were many lessons to share and learn from, especially in terms of how findings are presented both internally and to the broader community. 

“Language is really important and [we should be] trying to move away from this idea around positive or negative findings,” Maccalla said. “For true change to take place, we need to be embracing all the results, not just the glamorous findings.” 

Rivers closed out the conference by thanking presenters for sharing key takeaways, which he said echo Gammie’s words about building a more inclusive and equitable future in the biomedical research workforce. 

“We know that though the work is far from done we are moving forward, so . . . help us continue to build the foundation for not only a more diverse workforce but also within DPC,” he said. “Continue working to ensure that the future biomedical research workforce is a reflection of the population – [that] it's equitable and working for better health for all.”

Feedback shows connection is key

Post-conference surveys showed that the conference strengthened feelings of community among the attendees. One respondent wrote, there’s “much to do and we need each other to do it.” Another echoed this sentiment, writing, “we need to support each other in those efforts.” 

The work of the DPC is far from done and as one attendee noted, “we’ve collected enough data to begin answering the audacious questions we set out to answer.”

To further the impacts of the conference, program materials are still available through the website and recordings of all sessions can be requested by emailing info@diversityprogramconsortium.org.


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.
Need Assistance? Please contact our support team: info@diversityprogramconsortium.org .