This year, Yale School of Medicine (YSM) is launching an innovative program to support the research and post-doctoral careers of outstanding research scientists called the YSM Science Fellows Program. The program is a key part of the school’s Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and will recruit top PhD and MD/PhD recent graduates to engage in independent research and support them in transitioning into open faculty positions at Yale or other institutions. Fellows will receive mentorship and sponsorship, a generous stipend, and training in leadership, communication, and grant writing. DEI organizations at YSM will provide a community network and supportive environment for these fellows, including the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion (MORE), and the Dean’s Advisory Council on LGBTQI+ Affairs (DAC). The program was designed by Anthony Koleske, PhD, deputy dean for research, basic science departments, along with Darin Latimore, MD, deputy dean for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer.
Application information will be available in March 2022, and candidates who are underrepresented in science are strongly encouraged to apply.
Ifat Levy, PhD, associate professor and vice chair of diversity, equity and inclusion in comparative medicine and Kristen Brennand, PhD, professor of psychiatry and genetics, have been named co-directors of the program.
Many medical schools are looking for new approaches to attract, support, and retain faculty from underrepresented backgrounds. According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, just 3% of full-time faculty at U.S. medical schools identify as Black, 4% as Hispanic, and .1% as American Indian or Alaska Native.
“There's really nothing like this,” says Brennand, adding that the program is likely to evolve significantly in its initial years based on feedback from participants, mentors, department chairs, and others. “There are a lot of stakeholders here. And while everybody has the same overall goal to improve the recruitment, retention, and success of diverse scientists at Yale and in the field, there is still a lot of uncertainty about how best and most equitably to do that.”
Initially, the program will admit three fellows per year. “An important goal is to create a cohort of fellows who are supporting each other,” Levy says.
Levy and Brennand point to the Intersections Science Fellows Symposium as a model for how the YSM Science Fellows Program can build momentum, attract top candidates, and develop into a sought-after opportunity. Sponsored by YSM, Intersections has developed into an important showcase for diverse mid- to late-stage postdoctoral researchers in the biological and biomedical sciences who are matched with faculty mentors, present their research to top institutions, and join a supportive network.
Prior to Yale, Brennand was at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she co-directed undergraduate research programs that were designed to increase the number of underrepresented students into the graduate program. As vice chair for DEI in her department, Levy has spearheaded several efforts to improve equity and increase inclusion in the department.
What’s unique about the YSM Science Fellows Program, say the co-directors, is that it seeks to address inequities at multiple levels, providing layers of support, guidance, and community-building, and contributing to real systemic change.