Inclusive Excellence: Linking Workforce Diversity and Health Equity Goals

researchers collaborating

Minority researchers are needed to accelerate the delivery of solutions to address health disparities and achieve health equity. Efforts are underway to narrow the significant gap in the representation of racial/ethnic groups and women in the biomedical research workforce in the United States (U.S.). In the recent article, The Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Consortium: A Blueprint for Inclusive Excellence, published on June 25, 2021, in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, lead author Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance (Georgia CTSA) Principal Investigator, Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, and Director of Integrating Special Populations, Brian Rivers, PhD, MPH, Morehouse School of Medicine, along with several other leaders in biomedicine, demonstrate how The Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Program provides a framework for inclusive excellence in biomedical research.

Established by Congress through the National Institute of Health (NIH) National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), the RCMI Program addresses the health research, training, and infrastructure needs of underrepresented populations in biomedical research. Focused on these needs, the program prepares and advances the next generation of researchers and scholars in medicine, science, and technology. The RCMI Program provides grants to institutions that are historically or presently committed to serving and educating underrepresented populations and awards doctoral degrees in health sciences and the health professions. Additionally, the RCMI Coordinating Center consults and supports the expertise and innovations of RCMI Specialized Centers to advance their efforts toward addressing health disparities and implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. For example, an analysis of 18 RCMI Specialized Centers with awards granted between 2002 and 2015 assessed the impact on scientific discovery based on research funding, publications, patents, and return on investment. These findings show that the RCMI Consortium converted almost $900 million in overall program funding to nearly $4 billion in outside research awards and awarded over 22,000 science and health professional degrees. Furthermore, the paper referenced the National Science Foundation report that these 22,000 degrees represent one in four degrees awarded to African American and Hispanic minorities between 2002 and 2012.

In this paper, health professionals demonstrate how the RCMI Program can provide a framework for inclusive excellence by implementing a comprehensive systematic evaluation process that tracks data and links NIH goals of workforce diversity and health equity. This paper explains how a context-based evaluation framework can be used as a foundation for establishing common metrics and data collection standards for inclusive excellence. Research shows institutions that fail to integrate DEI initiatives into their institutional culture discourage some populations from participating in science. The inclusive excellence framework emphasizes scientific environments that are inclusive of the full spectrum of individual and institutional needs, thus understanding what works for whom, and in what context. In addition, the framework seeks to measure the impact and outcomes of increased research collaboration among a more diverse workforce.

Read more about how NIH-funded institutions and research consortia can collaborate with the RCMI Consortium to support underrepresented investigators in biomedical research and achieve health equity.

The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory, MSM, Georgia Tech, and UGA and is one of over 60 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health's Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.