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Increasing diversity in research: College of Medicine participates in national mentoring study

Penn State College of Medicine is participating in a national research study to evaluate the efficacy of a mentoring program for postdoctoral scholars and junior faculty members who are underrepresented in health-related sciences. Faculty from the University of Pittsburgh are leading the National Institute of General Medical Sciences-sponsored study, known as the “Building Up” career development intervention. Investigators hope that the program will increase the diversity of researchers.

“I hope our participation in this trial spurs new ideas for how we can foster an environment of diversity and inclusion in the College of Medicine’s research and education communities,” said Dr. Rebecca Phaëton, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and microbiology and immunology and the principal investigator for the College of Medicine site.

The College of Medicine is one of 26 sites taking part in a randomized trial of either usual mentoring activities or a career development program led by a near-peer mentor called the Career Education and Enhancement for Research Diversity. The intervention includes academic enrichment, supportive mentoring, collaboration and networking opportunities and career development activities like developing curriculum vitae, grantsmanship coursework and manuscript writing.

The University of Pittsburgh invited Penn State through its Clinical and Translational Science Award. Dr. Diane Thiboutot and Lorah Dorn, Early-Stage Investigator Training Program (KL2) leads at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, initiated the College of Medicine’s involvement and assisted with the application.

Phaëton, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher, said she hopes her career experiences can be beneficial to other junior faculty who are underrepresented in research. “Programs like ‘Building Up’ are a unique initiative to engage underrepresented minorities that will complement programs we already have in place, such as the Junior Faculty Development Program and the Early-Stage Investigator Training Program (KL2).”

Faculty interested in speaking at career-building sessions for the study participants should contact

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