Baylor College of Medicine

New center to focus on diversity, equity in medicine

Dana Benson


Houston, TX -

Baylor College of Medicine’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Inclusion and Equity and Department of Family and Community Medicine have received a five-year, $3.3 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to develop the Center of Excellence in Health Equity, Training and Research. The Center will promote diversity in medicine by focusing on programs aimed at undergraduate students and current students, fellows and faculty.

Baylor was one of 13 U.S institutions awarded a grant in 2017 through HRSA’s Centers of Excellence program, and one of only three in Texas. The overall goal of the national Center of Excellence program is to strengthen the nation’s capacity to produce a quality healthcare workforce whose racial and ethnic diversity is representative of the U.S. population.

“We are excited about this funding opportunity that serves as a catalyst to advance the College’s strategy to enhance infrastructure and foster synergy among our faculty, staff, trainees and students who are leading health equity research and educational endeavors,” said Dr. Alicia D.H. Monroe, Baylor’s provost and senior vice president for academic and faculty affairs.

“The Baylor College of Medicine Center of Excellence will build on Baylor’s long history of successful educational outreach initiatives that have proven innovative and effective in raising the number and proportion of underrepresented-in-medicine physicians in Texas and nationwide,” said Dr. Toi Harris, associate provost of institutional diversity, inclusion and equity and student services who serves as the program director and principal investigator of the new center. “An example of this is our pipeline program with the Houston Independent School District that provides a rigorous science-based education to a diverse population of students at the elementary, middle and high school levels.”

Despite successful programs at Baylor and elsewhere, there are still challenges to achieving a diverse healthcare workforce, Harris said. Baylor’s Center of Excellence in Health Equity, Training and Research will address these challenges through several areas of focus:

  • Collaborate with community partners, including local undergraduate institutions, to expand the underrepresented in medicine applicant pool for medical schools.
  • Develop a personalized academic performance plan for Baylor students with the goal of enhancing student academic performance.
  • Enhance the pathways for recruitment, training and retention of underrepresented in medicine faculty at Baylor College of Medicine through an evolving faculty development plan.
  • Conduct translational science activities that focus on health disparity issues to increase the cultural competence of Baylor’s medical school graduates.
  • Facilitate faculty-, fellow- and student-mentored research on minority health issues, including research in community settings and research that focuses on biologic markers related to social determinants of health.
  • Implement a training program to enhance the capacity of underrepresented in medicine students at Baylor to provide health services to underserved populations at community-based clinics.
  • Develop a Center of Excellence scholars program and provide stipends for the selected scholars to engage in Center programs.

Immediate priorities of the Center include supporting the efforts of the School of Medicine to enhance curricula and programs for medical students that focus on healthy equity and social determinants of health. In addition, the Center will develop curricula for undergraduates to increase their readiness for medical school, as well as establish programming to support the academic and professional success of current students, trainees and junior faculty. Center leaders will introduce a new technology platform created by the center director, Dr. Hamisu Salihu, professor of family and community medicine, to provide academic advising to students.

The Center of Excellence in Health Equity, Training and Research will be led by a collaborative team at Baylor. In addition to Harris and Salihu, members of team and their roles at the Center include Dr. Roger Zoorob, associate director for research; Dr. Nancy Moreno, associate director for education and professional development; Dr. Jean Raphael, associate director for health equity; Dr. Jason Salemi, evaluator and trainer; and Dr. Erik Malmberg, project manager. In addition, Dr. Jennifer Christner, dean of the School of Medicine, will serve as chair of the Center’s advisory council.

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