$10 Million NIH Endowment Grant Positions UAlbany as the Leading Northeast Hub for Health Disparities Education and Research
University Will Lead Landmark Public Engagement Initiative to Address Issue
ALBANY, N.Y. (April 27, 2016) – The University at Albany today announced, that with the support of a $10 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) endowment grant, it will launch a major public engagement initiative to address the future of minority health disparities in the Northeastern United States.
The NIMHD award will help address the training of scientists to study, create new knowledge, and implement changes to eliminate minority health disparities.
In addition to co-principal investigators UAlbany President Robert J. Jones and Director of CEMHD and Professor of Anthropology and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UAlbany Lawrence M. Schell, the landmark project encompasses six of its nine schools and colleges, and nearly two dozen Capital Region community organizations.
"This prestigious NIH award is an unprecedented endorsement of UAlbany's academic enterprise and our capacity to address the health disparities that plague underserved and minority communities," said Jones. "The endowment revenue will allow us to fill the pipeline with a diverse group of researchers dedicated to closing these gaps by working across disciplines—and in collaboration with community health care providers."
The project aims to increase the number of graduate students, faculty and researchers in health disparities from minority populations and underrepresented groups through enhanced recruiting efforts, and will seek to establish the UAlbany Endowment for Community-based Health Disparities Research and Training, with the endowment revenue supporting an array of educational and research initiatives.
"The University at Albany continues to be a leader of innovation across New York State and beyond," said United States Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand. "This partnership between UAlbany and more than a dozen community partners and stakeholders will help increase capacity and improve infrastructure in support of research, training, outreach, information dissemination and community engagement."
The NIMHD grant will also address a presidential priority of growing UAlbany’s endowment to $100 million in five years. The NIMHD award contribute significantly to this effort, by helping to create a portfolio of investment addressing the training of scientists to study, create new knowledge, and implement changes to eliminate Minority Health Disparities.
The Task at Hand
One of the greatest national public health challenges confronting the U.S. is the lack of scientists and researchers from diverse backgrounds – a serious concern facing UAlbany and other State University of New York (SUNY) campuses. While home to one of the most diverse student populations in the SUNY system -- with 5,161 underrepresented minority students (or 39.9 percent of undergraduate enrollment) in 2014-15 -- the University’s minority graduate enrollment only consisted of 733 students from underrepresented racial and ethnic populations (or 16.9 percent). This also pertains to UAlbany’s faculty, which was only 9.3 percent during the same academic year.
The NIMHD grant will help UAlbany to close these gaps by leveraging proceeds from the endowment funds, while redoubling its current efforts, to enhance the recruitment of Ph.D., graduate students and new faculty from minority populations and underrepresented groups, along with advancing a number of other research and community-based health disparities activities under the program.
This grant will allow UAlbany to expand its deep commitment to our community here in Albany," said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. "Minority health outcomes impact the health of our entire City, and I look forward to UAlbany’s leadership in bringing more diverse graduate students, researchers and professors to its campus and our City to tackle this growing challenge."
Implementing the Expansive Program
Under the five-year NIMHD grant program, UAlbany will:
Use endowment fund income to build a pipeline and new cohort of Ph.D. students from diverse populations by creating a Health Disparities Student Program. UAlbany will recruit and graduate doctoral students from minority/underrepresented groups who will receive training for research and scholarship using transdisciplinary approaches;
Recruit an Endowed Health Disparities Chair with nationally recognized expertise to anchor and lead the University’s research, training and community outreach endeavors in health disparities. The Endowed Chair will serve as a leader-catalyst in building a community of inclusive excellence spanning the health disparities disciplines and play a critical role in UAlbany’s plans to further diversify its campus community;
Develop innovative transdisciplinary health disparities education and training including the creation of new curricula to strengthen academic programs related to health disparities, a new master’s degree-level program focused on health disparities, and the establishment of an epigenetics lecture and laboratory course at the graduate level;
Strengthen community outreach, engagement and action plans related to the development of health disparities education, research, practice and policy. UAlbany will first reinvigorate the CEMHD’s existing minority health task forces in Albany and Amsterdam, N.Y., and will create new health disparities task forces in other regions in the future.
Train the Ph.D. Health Disparities students to establish, support and preserve a community task force, and the University will establish an annual President’s Community Forum on Health Disparities designed and informed with community input so that research will have goals and methods relevant to the community; and In order to achieve this truly transdisciplinary approach, six of UAlbany’s nine schools and colleges will play an integral role in the grant, including The College of Arts and Sciences and the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, as well as the Schools of Criminal Justice, Education, Public Health and Social Welfare.
The NIMHD grant will serve to establish unprecedented relations with both new and existing community partners and health service providers through the establishment of a broad Community Leadership Committee for Health Disparities with more than 20 community stakeholders, chaired by President Jones and Professor Schell. The community partners include:
Akwesasne Mohawk Nation
Albany City School District
Albany County Department of Health
Albany Law School
Albany Medical Center
Association of Nigerians in the Capital District
Bureau of STD Prevention and Epidemiology
Capital District YMCA
Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties
Healthy Capital District Initiative
Macedonia Baptist Church
Northern Rivers Family Services
New York State Department of Health
NYS Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Prevention (part of NYSDOH)
Parsons Child and Adolescent Mobile Crisis Team
Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson
St. Mary’s Hospital Women’s Services
Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region
Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center
Women and Youth HIV/STD Prevention Services
"Too often, our students and families struggle with access to, and information about, the quality health services they need and deserve. Or they are unable to take advantage of the educational and career opportunities that are growing so rapidly in the health-care sector throughout the Capital Region," said Kimberly Young Wilkins, Ed.D., interim superintendent of the City School District of Albany. "We are fortunate to have this groundbreaking work taking place through the leadership of President Jones and the University at Albany. We are hopeful and excited about the promise it holds as we partner to build a stronger, healthier community."
CEMHD is a collaborative effort focusing on minority health disparities in the smaller cities and towns of New York. It was established in 2004 through a three-year, $1.24 million grant from the NIH and endorsed by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). The Center works to eliminate health disparities by developing capacity in faculty at the University and partnering with community groups to identify their health concerns and the sources of disparities, and then plan, implement and test strategies to alleviate them. CEMHD is a partnership among community groups, hospitals, state and county health departments, the State of New York and the University at Albany.
"Through the creation of a permanent institutional endowment fund dedicated for health disparities research training, UAlbany will provide numerous pathways and opportunities to recruit a more diverse workforce and to create a more conducive scholarly environment for teaching and research to meet the important moral challenge to our society of health disparities,"said Schell.