NIMHD Quarterly Newsletter: Winter 2020

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Director’s Message

Dr Eliseo Perez Stable

Happy New Year!

People around the world are celebrating the start of a new year and a new decade. The year 2020 marks a milestone for NIMHD, as we celebrate 10 years as an institute at NIH!

The Institute’s full history dates back to 1990 with the establishment of the NIH Office of Minority Programs under the leadership of Dr. John Ruffin. Through the years, our organizational structure grew under legislation, giving us authority to establish research grant programs as a Center in 2000, among other crucial responsibilities, to advance minority health and health disparities research across NIH. Together, with our grantees, we have described the existence of health disparities, identified mechanisms that lead to these disparities, and developed interventions to reduce disparities and promote health equity. NIMHD has contributed to the creation of new fields of science in minority health and health disparities to further study their impacts on population health and health care. Today, as an institute, we delve deeper to understand the etiology and mechanisms which influence health disparities and seek solutions to address the complexities involved.

During our milestone year, we will highlight key discoveries of the last decade, recognize many of the people who’ve been a part of our legacy, and continue to foster and encourage the next generation of researchers to carry the torch forward. Stay tuned for updates on our celebratory activities coming out this year.

This edition of the newsletter looks at some of the institute’s final activities of 2019, including highlights of research advances, research training opportunities from NIMHD and the National Cancer Institute, recent lectures on genomics and the health of Alaska Natives, and blog posts with special guests, including Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. New research funding opportunities on social isolation and studies on sexual and gender minority populations, and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island communities are included as well.  We also announce NIMHD’s participation in the 2020 Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge, led by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and VentureWell.

I’m very proud of the work of our staff and the contributions of our grantees and research advocates.  Together, we can look forward to the next decade of progress toward an America in which all populations have the opportunity to live long and healthy lives.

NIMHD's 10th Anniversary

nimhd 2020

Save-the-Date for NIMHD’s 10th Anniversary Scientific Symposium: Innovations to Promote Health Equity

March 3, 2020 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET, NIH Main Campus, Bethesda, MD

The symposium will showcase the latest discoveries in minority health and health disparities research. Join us for a day of new insights, dynamic discussions and a look toward the future.

Registration information will be forthcoming. Be sure to sign up for NIMHD updates listserv here

Press Releases

Older Mexican American Adults Experiencing Pain Are at Risk of Developing Frailty

Mexican couple

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have found that older Mexican Americans who suffer from pain were 1.7 times likelier to become frail, compared to study participants who did not report pain. The study, published in Pain by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, looked at pain as a predictor of frailty in older Mexican American adults in a follow-up period of 18 years. All participants were non-frail at the start of the study .... Read more.

Recent Features

NIH Rwandan Fellow Dr. Mugeni Uses Cost-Effective Approach in Diabetes Prediction

Dr. Regine Mugeni

Each year, the NIMHD-NIDDK-Rwandan Health Program welcomes a physician from Rwanda who is committed to becoming a clinician scientist. Regine Mugeni, M.D., a physician from Rwamagana Provincial Hospital, came to NIH in July 2018 and is the third fellow to complete the yearlong fellowship program. She has been working on finding an affordable and reliable way to predict diabetes in Africans .... Read more.

Sharing the Message of Health, Fighting Chronic Disease in the Crow Nation: A Q&A

Alma McCormick

When her young daughter died of the rare cancer neuroblastoma, Alma McCormick, M.A., wanted to channel her pain and experience toward helping others. She started working with a small project, encouraging other women in the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation to get screened for cancer.

Through this work, she met Suzanne Held, Ph.D., a researcher from Montana State University. That meeting in 1996 sparked a longstanding community/academic partnership to address health disparities in the Crow Nation. Their initial project helped destigmatize discussions on cancer and increased cancer screenings among Crow women. It was so successful that the pair founded the nonprofit organization Messengers for Health to continue providing and expand their services. Read more.

The Drug Overdose Epidemic Affects All Communities

Colored map of the United States

In the last few decades, the drug overdose epidemic has worsened dramatically. The number of deaths from drug overdoses has skyrocketed, particularly among White people and people who live in rural areas. This aspect of the epidemic has gotten a lot of attention, because the rate has been increasing so quickly. However, it is not the whole story of the drug overdose epidemic.

A new NIH analysis of drug overdose deaths shows that the epidemic is huge and national, affecting people of all racial and ethnic groups, in cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas, and rates of drug overdose are rising among almost all groups .... Read more.

Finding Cancer Screening Messages That Resonate

Cancer screening fact sheet

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and one of the top causes of cancer deaths. Screening can help reduce deaths from colorectal cancer by catching abnormal growths in the colon before they spread or before they become cancerous. But only about two-thirds of U.S. adults ages 50 to 75—the range for which the procedure is recommended—get screened for these growths. Some demographic populations, including Latinos, people without health insurance, and people who have been in the United States for less than 10 years, are even less likely to be screened.

Researchers with the Participatory Research to Advance Colon Cancer Prevention (PROMPT) study are working to increase colorectal cancer screening rates for Latinos .... Read more.

NIMHD Transdisciplinary Collaborative Centers for Health Disparities Research Focused on Precision Medicine 

Diverse group of people sitting in a room

As medicine continues to advance, the benefits are marginal to underrepresented populations in clinical research. Studies designed around the concept of one-size-fits-all lead to therapies that may work for certain patients but not for others.

Precision medicine is an innovative approach to disease prevention, early detection, and treatment by taking into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles. Understanding the biological and environmental mechanisms underlying a patient’s health or condition allows clinicians to better predict which treatments will be most effective. This approach is especially valuable to health disparity populations, who may not respond to standard diagnostic or treatment strategies developed from clinical trials lacking representative study participants .... Read more.

Research Spotlight

William G. Coleman Jr., Ph.D., Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Innovation Award Recipients Announced for 2020

Dr. William G. Coleman

NIMHD announces the 2020 Coleman Research Awardees! The Coleman Awards are given annually in honor of William G. Coleman Jr., Ph.D., who was the first scientific director of NIMHD and the first African American scientific director of NIH. This competitive award program supports 1-year innovative research projects contributed by postdoctoral fellows, staff scientists, and staff clinicians within the NIH Intramural Research Program that have the potential for high-impact research in any area of minority health and health disparities. Learn more.

Recent NIMHD Activities

2020 DEBUT Challenge Is Accepting Applications

DEBUT logo

NIMHD is partnering with the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) on their Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) challenge in 2020. DEBUT is a biomedical engineering design competition open to teams of undergraduate students working on projects that develop innovative solutions to unmet health and clinical problems. The submission deadline is June 1, 2020. Learn more.

Campus of Hope at Marks Village Designated an EnVision Center

Photo of Campus of Hope at Marks Village

The Campus of Hope at Marks Village, an NIMHD community partner and hub of resources for Birmingham public housing residents and community members, has been designated an EnVision Center by Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Campus of Hope is a collaboration between local institutions, organizations and the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (HDRC), directed by Mona Fouad, M.D., is a key partner in providing free weekly health screenings and other wellness education programs, as well as evaluating the success of this Campus of Hope. Learn more.

NIMHD-Supported Study Identifies CFTR Variants in Latino Patients With Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

Shutterstock photo of Latino father and son

A study recently published in Pediatric Pulmonology highlights the importance of understanding the spectrum and frequency of CFTR variants in diverse populations in order to improve CF genetic panels and newborn screening programs. These panels and screening programs are generally developed based on variant frequencies observed in the White population and have a higher rate of false negatives when applied to a Latino population. To minimize false negatives, the study calls for genetic and newborn screenings to be sensitive to the target population and to include the prevalent CFTR variants for all racial and ethnic groups. Read the study report.

NIMHD-Funded Study Identifies Association of the Mandatory Medicare Bundled Payment With Joint Replacement Outcomes in Hospitals With Disadvantaged Patients

stock photo of magnifying glass over health cross

Researchers co-funded by NIMHD and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases explored how care changed under Medicare’s Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model in hospitals serving a high or low percentage of disadvantaged patients. The findings of this study, published in JAMA Network Open, suggest that under the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement system, hospitals with a high percentage of disadvantaged patients must reduce spending more substantially than their counterparts to obtain a financial incentive, despite their high share of patients with complex social and medical needs. Read the study report.

New Intramural Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (iCURE) Program

iCURE logo

The new iCURE program is accepting applications through January 17, 2020, and encourages individuals from underrepresented populations to apply. The program offers mentored research experiences starting in September 2020 in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Intramural Research Program for postbaccalaureate individuals, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Learn more.

Genomics and Health Disparities Lecture Series

Dr. Ali Gharavi

On December 05, 2019, Ali Gharavi, M.D., presented a lecture, “Understanding Health Disparities in Kidney Disease Through Genetic Studies,” as part of the Genomics and Health Disparities Lecture Series. This lecture series is a collaborative effort focused on exploring the role of genomics in achieving health equity. It is co-sponsored by NIMHD; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Human Genome Research Institute; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity at the Food and Drug Administration. Watch the presentation.

Public Health Thank You Day

Public Health Thank You Day was on November 25, 2019. Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable expressed his words of appreciation to public health professionals below:

Quote by Dr. Eliseo J. Perez-Stable

NIMHD Director’s Seminar Series 

Dr. Denise Dillard

On November 12, 2019, the NIMHD Director's Seminar Series featured Denise A. Dillard, Ph.D., in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Dr. Dillard is of Inupiaq Eskimo descent and is the director of research for Southcentral Foundation, a tribal health organization in Anchorage, Alaska. She presented on lessons learned over a decade of engagement with the Alaska Native community about ethical, legal and social implications of genetic research; findings from recent and ongoing genetic research by Southcentral Foundation, and ideas to increase participation of individuals from groups typically underrepresented in genetic research. Watch the videocast.

NIMHD Research Featured in NIDA Notes

NIDA Notes logo

On October 24, 2019, NIDA Notes (published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) featured research led by NIMHD Scientific Program Officer Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H., in collaboration with investigators at the University of Cincinnati: Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Tobacco Smoke Exposure Persist Among U.S. Children.

NIMHD Grantee Receives Presidential Excellence Award

Dr. Jamboor K. Vishwanatha

On October 15, 2019, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced the recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Among the PAESMEM award recipients was NIMHD grantee Jamboor K. Vishwanatha, Ph.D., a Regents Professor of molecular and medical genetics and vice president of the Center for Diversity and International Programs at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Dr. Vishwanatha is also the founding director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities and the principal investigator of the National Research Mentoring Network. Read more about recently recognized NIMHD grantees.

Translational Research Program to Improve Quality of Life Among Latina Breast Cancer Survivors

Dr. Anna Napoles

On October 24, 2019, the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health welcomed Anna María Nápoles, Ph.D., M.P.H., scientific director of the NIMHD Intramural Research Program, to present in the Understudied, Underrepresented, and Underreported (U3) Women Lecture Series. Dr. Nápoles introduced the Transcreation Framework for Community-Engaged Behavioral Interventions to Reduce Health Disparities and how it was applied to develop a translational research program to address psychosocial health disparities among Spanish-speaking Latina breast cancer survivors. Learn more about the framework in a recent feature.

Cultivating Inclusion: Honoring NIH Champions and Allies of Disabilities Awards Ceremony

Dr. Anne Sumner receiving award

On October 24, 2019, the Disability Engagement Committee at the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) presented the Champion of the Disability Community Award to Anne E. Sumner, M.D., a senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and NIMHD adjunct faculty. This award ceremony marks the first of an annual event at NIH. Watch the event on NIH VideoCast.

NIMHD Remembers Congressman Elijah E. Cummings

Congressman Elijah Cummings

On October 17, 2019, NIMHD recognized the passing of Maryland Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (January 18, 1951–October 17, 2019), a longtime friend to NIMHD and a civil right champion. Rep. Cummings called for others to be agents of change and, for more than 3 decades, led this change through public service..

Video Series: Through the Racial Equity Lens

Dr. Courtney Aklin

Courtney Aklin, Ph.D., NIMHD chief of staff, recently participated in the video series Through the Racial Equity Lens, produced by Montgomery County Council. As part of the national Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), the council is working to operationalize equity and integrate it into the decision-making process. Watch the video

On the Blog

Guest Blog Post: Talent in Biomedical Research Is Universal; Opportunity Is Not

Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers

Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P., director of NIDDK, describes how NIDDK programs provide opportunity for underrepresented groups to blaze a scientific path. Dr. Rodgers shares how NIDDK is fostering the growth of future scientists through programs such as the NIDDK Diversity Summer Research Training Program while also supporting current minority health researchers through programs such as the Network of Minority Health Research Investigators (NMRI), which encourages minority scientists to conduct research within NIDDK’s mission areas. Read the blog post.

Rural Health Is a Global Issue

Priscah Mujuru

Priscah Mujuru, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., RN, COHN-S, a scientific program officer in community health and population sciences at NIMHD, describes how her life experiences have led her to address health disparity issues within diverse rural populations. She invited everyone to join NIMHD and other NIH Institutes and Centers for the recent Inaugural Rural Health Seminar to explore topics in rural health and to share research ideas on how innovations in clinical and translational science could improve rural health outcomes. Read the blog post.

The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research

Drs. Tanya Agurs-Collins and Susan Persky

As part of the NIMHD special issue New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, Tanya Agurs-Collins, Ph.D., RD, (l) Susan Persky, Ph.D., (r) and their co-authors focused on designing and assessing multilevel interventions to improve minority health and reduce health disparities. In a blog post, Drs. Agurs-Collins and Persky say, "Multilevel interventions, based on the socioecological framework, involve intervening on at least two levels of influence at the same time. We chose this topic because multilevel interventions are an extremely challenging and often expensive undertaking that require myriad decisions and plans, yet it is becoming clear that such interventions are a necessary approach for overcoming great disparities evident in the public’s health, particularly for conditions like obesity ...." Read more.

New Blog Series on the Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities

School children at lunch

In order to tackle health disparities across disease, NIMHD began an initiative to create a scientific vision to transform minority health and health disparities. Input from experts from a range of scientific disciplines through committees, workshops, and direct public input helped 30 research strategies emerge. Scientific program officer and science visioning process committee member Nancy Jones, Ph.D., M.A., calls for researchers to envision how they can put the strategies into action in their research and introduces this new blog post series, which will highlight essays and editorials to discuss how researchers hope to operationalize the vision. Read more.

Funding Opportunities and Notices

  • Surgical Disparities Research (R01 - Clinical Trial Optional)
  • Building Population Health Research Capacity in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (U24 - Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • Research on biopsychosocial factors of social connectedness and isolation on health, wellbeing, illness, and recovery (R01 - Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required)
  • Research on biopsychosocial factors of social connectedness and isolation on health, wellbeing, illness, and recovery (R01 - Clinical Trials Not Allowed)
  • Methods and Measurement in Research with Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Populations (R21 - Clinical Trials Not Allowed)

Recent Staff Publications

Upcoming Events

February 3–March 9, 2020: Health Disparities Research Institute application period  (course dates: August 3–7, 2020)

June 1, 2020: DEBUT Challenge submission deadline (11:59 p.m. EDT)