Biomed Students at UAMS Get $2.45 Million Boost

Billy Thomas, M.D., M.P.H, Kristen Sterba, Ph.D., and Robert McGehee, Ph.D., serve as investigators on the grant.

April 30, 2014 | A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) program developed to help increase the number of underrepresented, disadvantaged and disabled students graduating with doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences recently received a $2.45 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grant that will continue through 2019.

The UAMS Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program was renewed for five years and is supported by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

The IMSD program was designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and individuals with disabilities, graduating with doctorates in the biomedical sciences. In the program’s first five years, the UAMS Graduate School was able to fund 20 students.

The program is one of only 48 IMSD programs for undergraduate and graduate students in the country. Billy Thomas, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, and Robert McGehee, Ph.D., dean of the UAMS Graduate School, serve as co-principal investigators on the grant with Kristen Sterba, Ph.D., as the co- investigator.

“In the first five years of this grant we have been able to build formal partnerships with several undergraduate institutions both in Arkansas and in surrounding states,” McGehee said. “It takes time for these programs to mature and this year we will be celebrating our first Ph.D. graduates. These are amazingly competitive grants, and getting renewed makes a strong statement about how highly respected our program is within the NIH and our peers around the country.”

IMSD has led to not only increased collaboration between the UAMS Graduate School and the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs, but also to relationships with other universities such as Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss, where UAMS has partnered with the school in their Bridge to Science Foundation and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. The IMSD has also established partnerships with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Louisiana State University.

Through the grant, students will be funded for their first two years of graduate study in one of the seven biomedical science doctoral programs (biochemistry and molecular biology, cellular physiology and molecular biophysics, interdisciplinary biomedical sciences, interdisciplinary toxicology, microbiology and immunology, neurobiology and developmental sciences and pharmacology).

After the first two years, funding will be provided by the graduate program or faculty mentor. Students selected for the program will participate in a summer transition program consisting of lectures on various biomedical topics, career and developmental seminars and a summer research rotation prior to the fall of their first year. Students also can participate in a formal mentoring program, seminar series and development of a competency-based academic portfolio.

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