Xavier Receives $19.6 Million NIH Award To Enhance Diversity In The Biomedical Workforce

Published: Oct 23, 2014

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- This afternoon Xavier University of Louisiana received a $19.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the national Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative. Xavier will use the grant to expand the already thriving biomedical programs the historically black university offers its students.

"Xavier is already number one in the nation as the primary undergraduate source of African American Ph.D.s in the life sciences," said Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University. "Yet, with this grant, we believe we can triple the number of these graduates and increase the number of African American life science Ph.D.s nationally by 10%. We are proud that NIH has named us one of the institutions that it believes can uniquely contribute to this important goal."

The award is part of a $240 million NIH investment involving more than 10 institutions to develop new approaches to engage student researchers, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, and prepare them to thrive in the NIH-funded workforce. Xavier and fellow awardees will establish a national consortium to train, mentor and encourage students from underrepresented groups to enter into and stay in research careers.

"These awards represent a significant step towards ensuring that NIH's future biomedical research workforce will reflect the unique perspectives found within the diverse composition of our society," said Dr. Hannah Valantine, NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity.

"Participation in faculty research projects is a major reason for Xavier's success in graduating STEM [science, technology and engineering] students, many of whom go on to get the Ph.D.," said Dr. Gene D'Amour, the university's principal investigator for the grant. "Working with our partner research universities across the nation, this NIH grant will greatly increase the opportunities for our students to become even more actively engaged in cutting-edge research and to go on to get life science Ph.D.s."

Xavier will serve as the primary institution for its grant, "Project PATHWAY: Building Integrated Pathways to Independence for Diverse Biomedical Researchers." It has partnered with Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Louisiana State University and its Health Sciences Center, Tulane University, The University of Wisconsin, Meharry Medical College, George Washington University, Penn State University, the University of Rochester and the University of California San Francisco.

Xavier will conduct and oversee the program's implementation to broaden the interests of students early in their college careers and attract them to a life sciences Ph.D. The primary benefit to the partners is access to Xavier STEM students to participate in their summer research programs and ultimately attract these students to their graduate programs. These students, known as BUILD Scholars, are motivated undergraduate science students with an interest in doing research and pursuing a Ph.D.

The BUILD Initiative is expected to include five integrated components:

  • Tuition scholarships, including stipends, for undergraduate BUILD scholars and possible loan repayment funds for those who pursue a Ph.D.  
  • Training and mentorship experiences for students across a wide range of disciplines in the biomedical sciences
  • Salary support for key faculty responsible for research training
  • Resources for highly effective mentors to train new mentors
  • Support for an "innovation space" environment for BUILD awardee institutions to develop additional creative and novel approaches to increase the diversity of the student pool that enters the Ph.D. training pathway relevant to biomedical research

For information about the BUILD awardees and partners, please visit http://commonfund.nih.gov/diversity/fundedresearch.

Xavier has significantly increased its national prominence in research over the last decade. Among the 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Xavier currently ranks first on a per capita basis from Health and Human Services (HHS) and sixth overall. Among all universities in the nation, Xavier is among the top 30 percent in National Science Foundation (NSF) funding and among the top 15 percent in HHS funding.

About Xavier University of Louisiana
Xavier University of Louisiana is a private, liberal arts co-educational institution offering over 40 bachelor's and master's degree programs as well as the Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Xavier is the only historically Black, Catholic university in the United States and draws students from 39 states; Washington, D.C.; Guam; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and eight foreign countries. The university is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its respective programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the National Association of Schools of Music, the Louisiana Department of Education, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Also, Xavier's chemistry program is approved by the American Chemical Society. For more info visit www.xula.edu.

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/xavier-receives-196-million-nih-award-to-enhance-diversity-in-the-biomedical-workforce-464915426.html

SOURCE Xavier University of Louisiana

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