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Xavier University Wins Grant to Increase Diversity in Biomedical Research

Courtesy of flickr.com
Courtesy of flickr.com
Courtesy of flickr.com
Courtesy of flickr.com

Xavier university is looking to triple the number of their minority alumni who go on to receive PhDs in the life sciences in the next decade, with help from an NIH grant. The first obstacle is getting undergraduates to stick with those fields.

According to the National Science Foundation, less than 3 percent of PhDs in the life sciences are held by African Americans and African Americans represent 3 percent of the workforce in scientific fields overall. Doctor Gene D’Amour, special assistant to the provost at Xavier university, says that’s a problem.

“There are medical issues - health disparities between different minority groups and Caucasians, and we really need to have a diverse workforce that works on those issues, works on those problems and tries to find solutions," he says. 

Xavier, a historically black university, already boasts the highest rate of African American alumni that go on to pursue PhDs in the life sciences as well as medical degrees. But D’Amour says the key to bumping up that number even higher is making sure that freshman stay in those fields.

By sophomore year, 39 percent of African American and female students at Xavier who intended to major in pre-med or pre-pharmacy switch to something else. Even if students switch to another life science, that can make it difficult to meet the requirements for a graduate degree.

“So what we’re trying to do is catch this group early on and to help them in a variety of ways. First off, by introducing them to biomedical research careers early on in their freshman year," D'Amour says.

The NIH grant to do that is already being implemented with this year’s freshman class. The university is partnering with other schools, including Tulane and LSU, whose graduate programs could be a destination for Xavier’s students. 

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Ann Marie Awad
Ann Marie came a long way to WRKF. Originally from Buffalo, NY, where she was a freelance print reporter, she moved to New York City to get a masters in journalism from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. During her time at CUNY, she interned with Brooklyn's Heritage Radio Network and Philadelphia's WHYY FM. When she's not wielding a microphone, Ann Marie loves comic books, politics and a great cup of coffee.

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