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Workshop on Recruitment and Retention of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in Scientific Research Careers Relevant to Heart, Lung, Blood, and Sleep Disorders

Report of the Working Group on Minority Recruitment into Institutional NRSA Training Programs (1993)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Early in 1993, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) convened a Working Group on Minority Recruitment. The purpose of the Working Group was to:

Examine issues related to research training and the recruitment of minorities into biomedical science, focusing on barriers and avenues to the recruitment of minority individuals into research training programs.

Develop recommendations for the NHLBI on approaches to improve the recruitment of minority individuals into research training programs and facilitate communication between training programs and minority individuals.


The Working Group in their deliberations determined that 3 distinct levels of recruitment need to be considered in making recommendations regarding minority recruitment into the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA) training programs. The 3 levels are:

1) Predoctoral Recruitment,
2) Ph.D. Postdoctoral Recruitment, and
3) M.D. Postdoctoral Recruitment

The problems in recruiting underrepresented minority individuals into these 3 levels are varied and distinct.

Predoctoral Recruitment

Issues affecting the recruitment of minority students into graduate programs include the number of minority students in the science pool, difficulties associated with recruiting minority students to large research institutions, and the involvement of minority institutions in encouraging minority students to pursue careers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. There was consensus among the Working Group that the development of partnerships between minority institutions and research training centers would be invaluable to increasing the number of minority students entering graduate science programs and receiving graduate degrees in the sciences. The Working Group identified several other strategies to attract minority undergraduate students to science and to prepare them to successfully enter graduate school.


Require institutional NRSA training grant programs to develop a partnership program with at least one minority institution.

Allow institutional NRSA training programs to appoint undergraduate minority students to short-term training positions.

Have the NHLBI provide up to 6 years of supplemental support, for stipend and tuition support for M.D./Ph.D. students, to institutional NRSA training programs that recruit minority medical students into a combined degree program.

Require institutional NRSA training grant programs to develop alliances with their undergraduate science departments to help identify and recruit minority students within the institution into the training grant programs.

Ph.D. Postdoctoral Training Recruitment

Data from the National Science Foundation indicates that fewer than 200 minority individuals receive Ph.D. degrees in the life sciences each year. Given this small pool it may not be possible to increase the number of minority Ph.D. postdoctoral trainees in NHLBI institutional NRSA research training grants. The number of minority individuals receiving Ph.D.s in the life sciences emphasizes the importance of increasing the number of minority students entering graduate science programs.


Have NHLBI develop a central registry of minority students due to receive doctoral degrees.

Have institutions develop prematriculation programs for graduate students similar to the programs available for undergraduate students planning to pursue careers in medicine.

M.D. Postdoctoral Trainee Recruitment

One problem concerning the recruitment of minority individuals into training programs is related to the way M.D. fellows are recruited. Most training programs recruit M.D. trainees from within their institution's residency or subspecialty training programs. As a result, the training program is dependent on the diversity of their institution's clinical training programs for recruiting minority M.D. postdoctoral trainees. Additionally, there are other barriers which mitigate against minority M.D. recipients pursuing research careers. However, the Working Group did identify approaches that should be employed to attract minority M.D. recipients to NRSA training grants.


Develop an NIH/NHLBI program directed at recruiting minority medical students in their second year of medical school into a combined M.D./Ph.D. program. It would be similar to the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) but offer individuals fellowships or allow institutional NRSA training grants to add positions and funds to support such trainees. Such a program should include a loan repayment provision to minimize medical school costs that may have already been incurred.

Enhance minority medical student recruitment by offering the opportunity to enter combined residency postdoctural programs with the support for the research portion coming from the NHLBI. Such commitments would be available as supplements to existing institutional NRSA training grants.


In addition to issues associated with recruitment at various educational levels, the Working Group considered the types of institutional commitments necessary for successful recruitment of minority individuals onto NHLBI institutional NRSA research training programs. Commitments are required from the individual NRSA training grant director, the sponsoring institution, the NIH/NHLBI, and minority institutions.

Training Grant Sponsoring Institution

The Working Group concluded that the current minority recruitment plans for T32 applications should contain a more defined commitment from sponsoring institutions to recruiting minorities. The Working Group identified resources that should be at sponsoring institutions to facilitate minority recruitment and retention.


Develop a coordinated minority recruitment plan at the applicant institution that includes the directors of all institutional NRSA training grant programs.

Develop university and community resources for social support of minority students coming from different cultures.

Identify an individual(s) within the sponsoring institution who is responsible for counseling applicants about resources available to them from the NHLBI, the sponsoring institution, and other sources.

Compile statistics of minority student enrollment in appropriate training levels (predoctoral, Ph.D. postdoctoral, M.D. postdoctoral, or M.D./Ph.D. programs) at the sponsoring institution to monitor the success of the minority recruitment effort.

Require sponsoring institutions involved in medical student education to develop programs to encourage minority medical students to consider research careers.

Individual Institutional NRSA Training Grant Programs

The personal involvement of the institutional NRSA training grant director and faculty of the institutional NRSA training grant program in minority recruitment is the most important ingredient needed to improve the access of minority students to careers in biomedical research. Efforts should be made to encourage the personal involvement of these individuals.


Require institutional NRSA training grant program directors at the same sponsoring institution to coordinate their recruitment efforts.


The role of NIH/NHLBI is to require institutional NRSA training grant programs to develop a minority recruitment plan. The Working Group concluded that the NIH/NHLBI should actively assist the institutional NRSA training grants in their minority recruitment efforts by developing, organizing, and disseminating information. The NIH/NHLBI effort might include development and distribution of brochures, compilation of information on minority science students, and communication of information on research training and career development opportunities.


Develop and distribute an NHLBI brochure highlighting minority research opportunities and describing the various institutional NRSA training programs supported by the NHLBI.

Work with minority institutions to identify academic advisors who counsel students majoring in biomedical science areas, and provide opportunities for them to meet with institutional NRSA training grant directors to learn about their programs and serve as contacts for coordinating recruitment activities.

Develop an NHLBI-sponsored training program for minority student advisors to make them aware of the research training and career development opportunities available for minority students.

Support the development of an NHLBI syllabus/course on what research/science is about that could be utilized by minority institutions to introduce students to careers in biomedical and behavioral science.

Develop a list of minority institutions and those with significant minority student populations. The list could include MARC and MBRS programs currently supported by the NIH. The list would be provided on a regular basis to institutional NRSA training programs.

Represent the institutional NRSA training grant programs at appropriate national minority meetings.

Minority Institution

The term "minority institution" should be broadened to include not only those schools with large numbers of minority students, currently defined as 50 percent or more of the total student enrollment, but also schools with a large minority population independent of the total student population. Any policy statements or recommendations should consider what might be done to improve the activities of these institutions in advising and directing minority students to the resources necessary to develop careers in biomedical research.


The definition of Minority Institution, with regard to the NIH minority recruitment policy, should be revised to include schools with a large minority student population.

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