Future leaders in Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine will require extensive expertise in the utilization of omics technologies and precision medicine, and the most accurate interpretation of data generated from these technologies. This information has the potential to unlock the complex interactions between genes and gene products in health and disease. However, disparities in the application and interpretation of genomic data to populations with African ancestry have been identified. In addition, diseases like pulmonary hypertension and fibrosis have a gender bias that should be considered when interpreting omics data. These issues present challenges with implementation, interpretation and cost-effectiveness of precision medicine initiatives when treating minority populations. Therefore, it is vital that physicians and scientists understand that ancestry and gender-related biases should be recognized when using clinical and genetic databases.
In spite of extensive efforts, basic and physician scientists from diverse populations are woefully under-represented in professorial ranks, particularly in precision medicine specialties. One explanation is that the many social and cultural pressures that under-represented minorities (URM) face are unrecognized. These pressures are outside the realm of academic performance; until we recognize that these societal pressures are as powerful as the pressure to succeed in academia, we will continue to lose these researchers.
In order to address some of these issues, the UC Denver “PRIDE Academy: Impact of Ancestry and Gender to Omics of Lung Diseases” (AGOLD) will integrate comprehensive formal instruction in:
- Proteomics, bioinformatics, genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics with an emphasis on interpretations based on ancestry and/or gender
- Career development tools that include grant writing with a focus on drafting a specific aims page using rhetorical patterns of writing, how to negotiate, how to mentor/be mentored and other tools
- An additional level of engagement that is distinct from the mentor-mentee relationship. With the recognition that minority scientists experience isolation, a sense of “otherness” that few mentors have experienced, we will implement the concept of academic “coaches” and use 2 levels of academic advisement, the traditional mentor: mentee, followed by an academic coach who complements and enhances the mentors’ role. The coach will be culturally competent and will help guide scholars navigate the intricacies of academia, using group activities and social science approaches such as communities of practice and cultural capital.
- Introduce best practices in mentoring and training in cultural competence and implicit biases so mentors understand the challenges scientists from under-represented populations face.
We will use the existing infrastructure of the recently developed and approved graduate degree in personalized medicine as well as the Pulmonary Division infrastructure. We have outstanding faculty members who have a track record of mentoring and research in cardiopulmonary diseases and personalized medicine, both directly relevant to the mission of the NHLBI. Furthermore, we bring together a team of academic coaches whose main objective is the success of women and URM in academia.