NIH-funded Medical Scientist Training Programs contribute to the diversity of the biomedical scientific workforce due to funding requirements, a Yale School of Public Health study has found.
MSTPs funded by the National Institute of General Medical Science T32 training grants enroll more students from racial and ethnic backgrounds who are historically underrepresented in science (URiS) than MD-PhD programs without NIH funding, according to the study.
The T32 grants are used to financially support trainees enrolled in MSTPs. URiS students are nearly four times more likely to matriculate at longstanding MSTPs than non-MSTPs, the authors noted.
To better understand the underlying basis for the increased diversity seen in NIH-funded MSTPs, the researchers interviewed leaders among a diverse group of MD-PhD programs. The qualitative study included 69 administrators and faculty at 12 MSTPs.
The study, Perspectives on National Institutes of Health Funding Requirements for Racial and Ethnic Diversity Among Medical Scientist Training Program Leadership, was published in JAMA Network Open. It found that NIH funding requirements for diversity fostered urgency among MSTP leadership to bolster matriculant diversity; enabled program administrators to secure additional investments in diversity; promoted holistic review; and encouraged rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of recruitment efforts.
“The benefits of diversity within research teams are well-documented and include a greater ability to solve complex problems, generate higher-quality research, and participation in clinical trials by underrepresented populations,” said Leslie Curry, professor of public health (Health Policy) and of management, and affiliated faculty at Yale Institute for Global Health.
Despite the benefits of diversity, in 2020, only 2% of NIH Research Project Grants (R01 grants) were awarded to Black scientists, and only 5% were awarded to Latino/a scientists.
The authors also noted that physician-scientists with an MD-PhD degree serve a vital role in advancing knowledge in the biomedical workforce. Although they comprise only 4% of medical school graduates, physician-scientists receive nearly 50% of NIH research funding grants awarded to physicians.
“This study suggests that the NIH could consider linking diversity efforts to additional funding opportunities to increase the diversity of the biomedical research enterprise,” the authors said.
Lead author Adeola Ayedun contributed the study while she was associated with the Global Health Leadership Initiative at YSPH. Dowin Boatright, formerly of Yale School of Medicine, was the study’s senior author.