A transformative grant awarded to Northwestern totaling $16 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) aims to disrupt systemic barriers that impede the full participation of underrepresented groups by funding the cluster hiring of new faculty in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular, and brain and behavioral sciences.
The five-year grant, along with support from Northwestern, will allow the university to hire 15 new tenure-track faculty, and will deploy innovative strategies to ensure the success of faculty members from historically underrepresented populations. The funding is designed to address the dearth of underrepresented minorities in the life sciences. The initiative aligns with Northwestern’s values, which emphasize the benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion. This overarching initiative, called the Northwestern University Recruitment to Transform Under-Representation and achieve Equity (NURTURE) program is one of only 11 such awards to date in the country.
“This grant is an amazing dream come true. I have traversed the entire academe over 17 years here at Northwestern and am excited for the opportunity to lead substantive change in the institution with how we recruit, hire, onboard, support and retain diverse faculty,” said Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, the George H. Gardner, MD, Professor of Clinical Gynecology, director of the Center for Health Equity Transformation and associate director of community outreach and engagement for the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and the primary investigator and project leader for the grant.
Along with Simon, co-primary investigators on the NURTURE project will be: Eric Perreault, PhD, associate dean for research, professor of Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; and Clyde Yancy, MD, MSc, Feinberg School of Medicine’s vice dean for Diversity and Inclusion.
“Our stated awareness of the need for more diversity and our promises to lead change are now made manifest by NURTURE,” said Yancy, who also is the chief and Magerstadt Professor of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine. “This is how real change happens with an intentional focus on diversity and a suite of processes creating a community appropriate for success. Each of these scientists has the capacity to change medicine.”
The NURTURE program is funded by the NIH Common Fund’s Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program, which aims to enhance and maintain cultures of inclusive excellence in the biomedical research community. The program supports the recruitment of a “critical mass” of early-career faculty with a demonstrated commitment to inclusive excellence. It also supports those faculty members to enhance retention, progression and the development of inclusive environments.
With backing from Provost Kathleen Hagerty, PhD, and the deans of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern will hire new faculty across the university.
“We are grateful for the tremendous support Northwestern has provided for the NURTURE program and the commitment it demonstrates for increasing the diversity of intellectual thought on our campus,” Perreault said. “The new faculty and programs for inclusive excellence enabled by NURTURE will have a long lasting, positive impact on biomedical research at Northwestern.”
In addition to supporting the hiring of faculty members from diverse backgrounds, the grant also will support three core centers aimed at enhancing the NURTURE program’s activities:
- An Evaluation Core, led by Kristi Holmes, PhD, director of the Galter Health Sciences Library and a professor of preventive medicine in the Division of Health and Biomedical Informatics and Bennett Goldberg, PhD, assistant provost for learning and teaching and professor of Physics and Astronomy at Weinberg;
- A Faculty Development Core, led by Susanna McColley, MD, scientific director for interdisciplinary research partnerships and a professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, and Luisa Iruela-Arispe, PhD, the chair and Stephen Walter Ranson Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology; and
- An Administrative Core, led by Simon.
The grant application for the NURTURE program was supported by the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute. The project is supported by award number U54CA272163 from the NIH Common Fund (Office of the NIH Director, Office of Strategic Coordination).