The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has awarded LSU Health New Orleans a $1.4 million grant over five years to prepare individuals from backgrounds underrepresented in the biomedical sciences to earn either a PhD or MD/PhD degree. The grant was awarded through the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP), and LSU Health New Orleans is the only Louisiana university, and one of only three in the Gulf Coast region, to successfully compete for this type of grant.
According to the National Institutes of Health, PREP provides support for participants to work as apprentice scientists in a mentor’s laboratory. This program is expected to strengthen the research skills and academic competitiveness of participants for pursuit of a PhD degree in the biomedical sciences, after completion of the one-year program. Grants are made to research-intensive institutions to support research experiences, and courses for skills development.
“We aim to enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce by preparing PREP Scholars for the rigors and challenges of a biomedical doctoral degree program so that they can successfully obtain a PhD degree or MD/PhD degree, and contribute their expertise to the biomedical scientific community,” notes Principal Investigator and PREP Director Lisa Harrison-Bernard, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.
LSU Health New Orleans will provide PREP participants with hands-on exposure to medical research, advanced courses, and workshops to develop scholarly potential to prepare them for graduate school admissions, successful degree completion, and careers in biomedical research.
The program will be executed by a strong leadership team, which also includes Co-Directors Allison Augustus-Wallace, PhD, and Fern Tsien, PhD; Program Coordinator Flavia Souza-Smith, PhD; and Program Administrator Betsy Giaimo. Other keys to the program’s success include 55 dedicated faculty research mentors, the institutional advisory council, external advisory council, scholar recruitment contacts at nearby universities, and external consultants.
“The LSU Health New Orleans PREP will become the regional hub for advancing the educational opportunities for students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences,” adds Dr. Harrison-Bernard.
LSU Health New Orleans’ proposal received recognition for “the highly qualified leadership team and advisory board, a large pool of excellent research mentors, and a well-conceived program that provides scholars with intensive research experiences, graduate record examination preparation, comprehensive professional skills development, and mentoring; and the high likelihood that the proposed PREP would have a significant impact on the numbers of underrepresented PhD biomedical graduates, both from LSU Health New Orleans and nationally.”