DLSP Director’s Corner (INCLUDE Issue 5)

Over the last several years, Keystone Symposia Fellows have embraced peer collaboration and peer mentoring activities as important pathways for professional development. Establishing and sustaining a sense of community and strong scientific networks is especially critical for underrepresented (UR) biomedical researchers, who can often experience feelings of social and professional isolation.  An article by Gary Butts, MD, et al., “Role of Institutional Climate in Fostering Diversity in Biomedical Research Workforce: A Case Study,” examines the factors that can contribute to feelings of alienation, including a “lack of critical mass.” Fortunately, with nearly 50 UR Fellows in the program, there is an established critical mass that engenders feelings of belonging in both the larger scientific community and within Keystone Symposia. These kinds of positive sentiments are captured in the Evaluation Report conducted by DePass Consulting in late 2016.  The Diversity in Life Science Programs (DLSP) commissioned the report and shares data findings in “Evaluating Progress: The 2016 Keystone Symposia Fellows Evaluation.” In that section, we provide survey results on the status of the Fellows program, including responses related to self-efficacy, and science identity issues.  Committed to creating a supportive, diverse, and inclusive environment, the DLSP began collecting quotes for national Heritage Months (i.e., Hispanic Heritage Month; American Indian/Alaskan Native Heritage Month; Black History Month; and Women’s History Month) that express Fellows’ deep connections to racial/ethnic and gender identities as women and UR scientists.  In our section, “Imagine a World,” we share personal quotes that provide a window into how our Fellows see themselves as UR and women biomedical researchers.  In our section on health disparities in the last issue of INCLUDE, we discussed a successful partnership with the HDEART Consortium that has resulted in two Fellows’ giving guest lectures in fall 2016: Digna Velez Edwards (Class of 2012, Vanderbilt University) and Lindsey Trevino (Class of 2016, Baylor College of Medicine). In June 2017, Velez Edwards and Trevino will be joined by Amol Kulkarni (Class of 2015, Howard University) to conduct scientific presentations at the HDEART Workshop in Houston, TX.  Also, Keystone Symposia is pleased to announce that a Virtual Keystone Symposia (VKS) on Health Disparities will be held live on May 25, 2017. HDEART organizer, Lovell Jones, will join me, Keystone Symposia Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) member Russell deBose Boyd and 2017 Fellows Amanda Marie James (Emory University) and Glenn Simmons (University of Minnesota, Duluth) for live Q&A on the status of health disparities research in the U.S.  We are certain there will be provocative and introspective discussions among our speakers on topics of public health concern to all communities, but most particularly, communities of color.  Last, but certainly not least, we will share perspectives from a 2017 mentor/mentee dyad, mentor Geoffrey Ginsburg (Duke University) and Fellow Paola Giusti-Rodriguez (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).  It is always instructive to hear what makes for a rewarding mentoring experience.

As this goes to print, the latest news on biomedical research funding is not promising as the new administration considers a 20 percent NIH budget cut.  Despite the seriousness of this proposed action, we remain hopeful that the critical research conducted by our mentors and Fellows will not be adversely impacted.

Be well.  Mentor Strong.