Changing the face of science

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Our Work and Focus

The VCU Center on Health Disparities was established in 2005 by the VCU Board of Visitors in response to emerging evidence of barriers to equitable health care at the local, state and national levels. Our overall mission is to develop the capacity of faculty, staff, students and community partners to identify causes for interventions that will eliminate health disparities. Our center’s key areas of focus:

Research training programs

Health disparities research

Community engagement




VCU CoHD's pipeline research and educational strategies

The VCU CoHD’s pipeline research and educational strategies have become an important influence in advancing health career diversity by increasing the number of underrepresented students who enter graduate school, obtain a health professional career and/or become researchers.

The VCU Center on Health Disparities career development model

The VCU Center on Health Disparities career development model supports VCU’s mission and Quest 2025 strategic plan. We inspire the next generation of biomedical researchers toward a career of research and scientific discovery. Our pipeline programs advance institutional excellence and enhance university culture by supporting student success, which includes improved retention and graduation rates in the biomedical sciences.

We target students who are from racial/ethnic minorities, are economically disadvantaged, first-generation college-bound, or living with disabilities. All of these students are underrepresented in biomedical research. Our programs provide them access to mentoring in a biomedical research environment, introduce and expose them to biomedical research careers, and offer guidance and application support for acceptance into graduate programs. (Quest 2025 Theme I- I.3 & Theme ll - ll.1)

Our pipeline programs have garnered funding from the Division of Minority Opportunities in Research of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Only six schools in the U.S. have IMSD, PREP and IRACDA programs. VCU is in company with the University of Arizona, Tucson; University of Michigan Medical School; University of New Mexico; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Baylor College of Medicine. Of these schools, only VCU and the University of Arizona have IMSD programs that serve both undergraduate and Ph.D. students. As such, VCU is one of only two schools in the country with this NIGMS training grant portfolio.

The CoHD NIGMS training program portfolio is highly regarded in the U.S.

Consequently, the CoHD NIGMS training program portfolio is highly regarded in the U.S. (Quest 2025 Theme II.1) This program serves a breadth of trainees at multiple levels in the training network, preparing students for the broader biomedical workforce, including those entering technical industry positions, nonprofit organizations and health care professions.

Our undergraduates enter graduate programs at outstanding institutions (including VCU), are obtaining postdoctoral fellowships in highly respected labs, and are obtaining tenure-eligible faculty positions and recognition as authors on primary scientific literature. Since 2010, the percentage of underrepresented graduate students in the VCU School of Medicine has increased from less than 10% to more than 14%, and the pipeline programs have been key elements in this increase. Eighty-two percent of our pipeline program trainees are from underrepresented populations, more than 90% of them entered graduate school and 30% of them have stayed at VCU for graduate school with 100% retention in graduate programs. The number of VCU underrepresented students entering national Ph.D. programs has significantly increased, and our programs have contributed to this improving pipeline of underrepresented students. Our graduation rates are well above the institutional averages, especially for Black and Latino males in STEM, which are high-risk populations at VCU and nationally. (Quest 2025 Theme II-ll.3)