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Researchers Study Role of Cultural Diversity Awareness in Effective Mentoring

Madison, Wisconsin - The nation needs a more diverse biomedical workforce.  To help advance that goal, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers will assess whether cultural-diversity training of research mentors makes a positive difference for those they are mentoring in biomedical research.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has made a national priority the discovery of new and better pathways to effective mentoring in developing an effective biomedical workforce.  And in 2012, an NIH working group on the biomedical workforce noted that increasing diversity of trainees and the workforce is critical to the future of biomedical research in the U.S. 


Consequently, the NIH has awarded a four-year, $1.4 million dollar grant to two principal investigators on the UW-Madison faculty and staff. Dr. Angela Byars-Winston, associate professor in the department of medicine in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and Dr. Christine Pfund, researcher in the department of medicine and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, will tackle one of the hurdles to effective mentoring.  This new RO1 grant is funded as a competitive renewal to the current NIH grant that the two faculty collaborators have led since 2010, building on their investigations into the mechanisms that underlie effective research mentoring in the sciences. 


“Student mentees in research science generally don’t feel empowered to talk with their mentors about cultural diversity issues. Likewise, some research mentors may be uncertain of how to address diversity issues since these aren’t commonly talked about in the life and physical sciences. As a result, some mentees may walk away with an unspoken disconnect and wonder if they actually belong in science fields,” said Byars-Winston.


The research will determine how mentors and mentees define cultural diversity awareness and how relevant it is to the mentoring relationship.  After measure development and validation, a cultural diversity awareness module created earlier by Byars-Winston, Pfund and Dr. Janet Branchaw, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology and director of the Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement (WISCIENCE) will be included as part of an established  research-mentor training program.  The training portion will be assessed via a randomized-controlled trial with mentors drawn nationally from 10 sites in the U.S. that will compare the effects of the training with and without a cultural diversity awareness session.


“We want to determine if mentees have an improved experience with mentors who had training in cultural diversity awareness,” said Byars-Winston.  “Right now, research on how cultural diversity factors operate in the research mentoring relationship is virtually non-existent.”


”We intend for our findings to inform the science and practices aimed at advancing the culturally diverse biomedical workforce needed to address health disparities in disease prevention and treatment,” said Byars-Winston.


The research is funded by NIH grant number 2R01GM094573-04.

Date Published: 09/16/2014

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Researchers Study Role of Cultural Diversity Awareness in Effective Mentoring

Last updated: 09/26/2014
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