Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has been awarded a grant from the Walder Foundation via the COVID-19 Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists (FRCS) competition, designed to support policies and practices at U.S. medical schools to advance research productivity and retain early-career clinician investigators experiencing family caregiving challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 had an unprecedented impact on our research enterprise, resulting in a near-complete shutdown of on-campus research operations and shift of our clinical focus, and will affect the careers of our medical school faculty, especially early career faculty seeking to establish a research program, for years to come. This funding opportunity, supported by the Walder Foundation will provide a unique opportunity to assist early career clinician investigators negatively impacted by the pandemic due to family caregiving responsibilities by providing resources to help revitalize their research programs,” said William Lowe, Jr., MD, vice dean for academic affairs and the Thomas D. Spies Professor of Genetic Metabolism.
The $550,000 grant, part of an overall $12.1 million given to 22 medical schools in 17 states, was made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, in concert with the American Heart Association, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the John Templeton Foundation, the Rita Allen Foundation and the Walder Foundation. At Feinberg, the funding will award a one-time supplement grant of $30,000 to $50,000 to 12 to 17 early-career clinician investigators experiencing research delays due to family caregiving during the pandemic, while a larger group of faculty will receive further outreach related to support skills and mentoring to help ensure early-career success.
The FRCS is the nation’s largest funding collaborative advancing equity in the biomedical sciences. Nationwide, the grants will benefit at least 250 biomedical faculty, supporting faculty experiencing periods of caregiving crisis, such as hiring research personnel, statisticians and technicians, among other uses.
As documented in a recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated family caregiving demands often borne disproportionately by women and people of color, with faculty in sciences have been especially affected, putting decades of gains in representation of women in these fields at risk.
According to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the 22 medical schools including Feinberg chosen for FRCS support all feature a strong body of research, aggressive efforts to provide a more equitable and inclusive environment for faculty and students, and a commitment to further advancing such efforts.
“COVID-19 brought us face-to-face, or Zoom-to-Zoom, with the caregiving demands so many face. This is a crisis for biomedical science—but it can be an opportunity. These medical schools are leading the way in seizing the urgency of the moment to challenge business as usual and to commit to innovative approaches that will assure a more inclusive, equitable future across the biomedical sciences,” said Sam Gill, CEO and president of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.