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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC Responds to NIH RFI on Faculty Cohorts to Increase Diversity

    Amanda Field, Specialist, Science Policy

    The AAMC May 30 submitted a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in response to a Request for Information (RFI), Institutional Accountability to Promote Inclusive Excellence, seeking input on a potential Common Fund project with the goal of employing “a cohort model at the faculty level as a catalyst for institutions to create a route of entry and advancement for talent from diverse backgrounds.”

    In its letter, the AAMC commended the NIH for recognizing the need for additional strategies to foster faculty diversity in academic research positions. Due to the difficulty of intentionally hiring a faculty level cohort within or across institutions, the AAMC recommends that nationwide, faculty-level cohorts be selected from the researchers whose institutions choose to hire individually. National cohorts should be discipline-specific, should consider the type of faculty (e.g., clinician, researcher, or lecturer), and should also be given access to scientists outside of their cohort’s career stage to seek mentorship and sponsorship.

    The letter also provided some necessary components that the NIH should consider for creating a virtual community for cohorts, including guidelines and standards, use of social media, and in-person meetings. Additionally, the letter recommended that NIH leverage existing networks, resources, and models, such as professional societies, the NIH’s National Mentoring Research Network, the Texas CTSA Consortium Mentored Research Career Development (KL2) Program in Clinical and Translational Science, and an industry example from Dow.

    The AAMC also made multiple recommendations for the biomedical research community and the NIH toward increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion for historically excluded and underrepresented (HEUR) individuals at the faculty level. Recommendations include: the promotion of networking opportunities and transparency; additional training for faculty and administrators to help create an inclusive environment; the development of interinstitutional cohorts at the NIH; adapted K99/R00 or similar grant mechanism to recruit HEUR faculty; and expansion of NIH programs to support partnerships between well-resourced institutions and smaller or less-resourced institutions to support HEUR scientists.

    Finally, the AAMC presented ongoing and successful strategies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at the faculty level, including strategies that have been successful at fostering an inclusive culture and climate in recruitment and retention, community engagement, mentoring, cohort-model approaches, and partnerships.