Training the Next Generation of Health Disparity Researchers

Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, ’06 GME, the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology and vice chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is the principal investigator of a five-year grant that establishes the Northwestern University Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training Program.

Northwestern Medicine has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to prepare the next generation of scientists committed to research that improves minority health and reduces health disparities.

The Northwestern University Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training Program (NU-MHRT) will be funded by a five-year training grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The program will provide health disparities research training experiences to minority and other underrepresented students and trainees, supporting early career development to 10 trainees per year from diverse backgrounds as they progress to the next stage in their health sciences-related research career.

“This grant is a dream come true for me and is highly important to Feinberg and Northwestern as it is the first training grant solely focused on minority health and health disparities research across the research continuum,” said principal investigator Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, ’06 GME, the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology and vice chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Increasing the diversity of students and trainees in the pipeline of health sciences research careers is a national public health priority, according to Simon. The disproportionately low representation of minority populations in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences research workforce hampers efforts to understand and eliminate health disparities and has profound implications for the quality of health research and care involving populations that suffer the negative consequences of health disparities.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, meets with Chicago-area students supported by Northwestern University and partner programs such as the ChicagoCHEC fellows program, CHASE Your Dreams, ResearcHStart and The Guide, who may one day consider healthcare careers. Durbin, along with Leon Platatnias, MD, PhD, director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, ’06 GME, director of the Center for Center Health Equity Transformation and the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology, vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a professor in the Departments of Preventive Medicine and Medical Social Sciences, discussed opportunities for students to succeed in the scientific community.

“The NU-MHRT will provide health disparities research training experiences from bench to bedside to trainees at the undergraduate through postdoctoral levels and will include trainees from Chicago area institutions as well,” explained Simon, director of the Center for Health Equity Transformation.

NU-MHRT will foster partnerships between Northwestern and several public universities and colleges, as well as local and national community organizations, all with the long-standing commitment to educate underrepresented minority populations.

Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, ’06 GME, director of the Center for Center Health Equity Transformation, meets with Sen. Dick Durbin to discuss health disparities, outreach and pipeline programs, and Northwestern’s commitment to training the next generation of health disparity researchers.

“This is a great opportunity for early career scholars to work with our outstanding  Northwestern faculty on social epidemiology and community-engaged research addressing health equity and the social determinants of health,” said Joseph M Feinglass, PhD, associate director of NU-MHRT and research professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics and of Preventive Medicine.

The program will be centered in Chicago, a metropolitan area rife with health disparities and a history of incubating innovative research programs aimed at reducing those disparities, including many led by NU-MHRT Program Faculty. The training program funded by the new grant will provide immersive research training, structured career development mentorship, and tailored didactic learning opportunities for trainees.

This is the inaugural grant for the newly founded Center for Health Equity Transformation, a joint center between the medical school’s Institute for Public Health and Medicine and Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, where Simon is is co-leader of the Cancer Control and Survivorship Research Program.