NIH Recognizes Miller School Faculty for Mentoring Expertise, Funds Them to Mentor Junior Faculty Nationwide
The National Institutes of Health has funded two University of Miami Miller School of Medicine faculty through its Helping to Accelerate Research Potential (HARP) UE5 grant program. The grant’s aim is to pair newly funded researchers nationwide with experienced mentors.
“NIH is looking to develop mentors and provide mentoring opportunities and career advice for less experienced postdoctoral scholars and junior faculty from diverse backgrounds who have received research funding,” said the grant’s principal investigator, Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., associate professor of clinical urology and director of the Miller School’s Reproductive Urology Program at the Desai Sethi Urology Institute. “NIH is actively seeking to not only recruit but also retain a diverse pool of funded researchers, recognizing the need for an increased mentorship network to support their successful academic careers, as many currently face challenges leading to attrition after receiving their first grant.”
This multiple-PI five-year grant will be co-directed by Dr. Ramasamy and Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D., Katz Professor of Medicine and chief of the Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension. Together, they will lead and oversee the project, leveraging their expertise and collaboration to achieve its goals. They will both mentor researchers from outside the University of Miami and create a mentoring curriculum to help experienced researchers looking to refine their mentoring skills.
A Reflection of Mentoring Success
The grant reflects the doctors’ success as funded researchers, as well as their commitments to mentoring, with an emphasis on mentoring students and researchers from diverse backgrounds.
Dr. Ramasamy has long been recognized for his passion for mentoring. The American Urological Association recently awarded him the 2023 Gold Cystoscope Award for his commitment to education and mentorship. He leads the Miller School’s Miami Andrology Research Scholar program, for which Desai Sethi Urology Institute faculty mentor medical students, predominantly women and underrepresented minorities, from outside the University.
Dr. Fornoni received the University of Miami’s Best Graduate School Mentor of the Year Award in 2016, the Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activities in 2018, and the Women in Academic Medicine Leadership Award in 2019. This year, she was inducted into the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida. Her trainees occupy key academic and industry positions in five different continents.
She also co-directs the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CSTI)/Mentored Translational Research Scholars Program Award (K12) and a NIH T35-funded summer program for first-year medical students at the Miller School. Dr. Fornoni says the HARP grant will allow her to promote the vertical integration of the many mentoring programs with which she is involved.
“My overarching goal is to promote inclusiveness, equity and diversity by engaging everybody—from high schoolers in our community to junior faculty at this and other institutions—with the intention of helping to propel their careers,” Dr. Fornoni said.
Yet another example of the University of Miami’s commitment to mentoring and educating future researchers is the National Cancer Institute-sponsored Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, which immerses students from diverse backgrounds in hands-on, innovative biomedical lab research.
The HARP grant will help ensure that the biomedical research workforce not only thrives but also reflects America’s gender and racial diversity, Dr. Ramasamy said.
According to NIH.gov, “Every facet of the United States scientific research enterprise—from basic laboratory research to clinical and translational research to policy formation—requires superior intellect, creativity and a wide range of skill sets and viewpoints. NIH’s ability to help ensure that the nation remains a global leader in scientific discovery and innovation is dependent upon a pool of highly talented scientists from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, who will help to further NIH’s mission. Research shows that diverse teams working together and capitalizing on innovative ideas and distinct perspectives outperform homogenous teams.”