Newswise — New York, NY (October 18, 2021) – The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has been awarded a five-year, $16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to foster inclusive excellence in the biomedical sciences using evidence-based approaches.

The NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) initiative award fuels a multi-institution effort to identify and implement new strategies to recruit faculty members from groups underrepresented in medicine by supporting faculty development, mentoring, sponsorship, and promotion.

Icahn Mount Sinai aims to recruit and hire 12 faculty members from underrepresented groups across four research areas and institutes: The Friedman Brain Institute, the Institute for Health Equity Research, The Tisch Cancer Institute, and the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute.

Icahn Mount Sinai will work closely with six leading institutions—Cornell University, Drexel University, Florida State University, San Diego State University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Morehouse School of Medicine—that will also receive FIRST grant funding. Morehouse, an established partner of Icahn Mount Sinai, will serve as the Coordination and Evaluation Center for the FIRST grant.

The Center for Scientific Diversity at Icahn Mount Sinai, a major driving force behind Icahn Mount Sinai’s FIRST grant, was established to foster, develop, and assess empirically supported practices that promote and enhance scientific innovation, diversity, and equitable advancement within the biomedical investigator workforce. The Center was founded in 2020 by Emma K. T. Benn, DrPH, MPH, who is one of four Principal Investigators (PIs) for the NIH FIRST grant, Associate Professor of Population Health Science and Policy, and Associate Dean for Faculty Well-being and Development at Icahn Mount Sinai. It has served as an “incubator lab” to identify strategies that will increase the research success and advancement of underrepresented faculty and strengthen the pipeline of underrepresented trainees in the biomedical research workforce.

“Obtaining this level of support in an inaugural year is not only an extraordinary achievement but also a mark of the Center’s expertise in and commitment to inclusive excellence,” said Dr. Benn. “This grant builds upon the Center’s foundation to promote and sustain academic cultures that equitably recruit, retain, and advance underrepresented faculty while also developing, implementing, and evaluating innovative strategies, like the proposed cluster cohort hiring strategy in the NIH FIRST Award. This award also speaks to the longstanding work at Icahn Mount Sinai to support underrepresented faculty.”

The newly created Center for Scientific Diversity represents one of many milestones of Icahn Mount Sinai’s institutional commitment to diversifying its biomedical workforce. “The Center for Scientific Diversity brings together voices and talents across multiple academic departments at Mount Sinai with the shared goal of developing and implementing best practices for diversifying the biomedical research workforce while promoting a transformative culture of inclusive excellence. In that sense, our goals are perfectly aligned with the mission of this innovative funding mechanism. We will be well positioned to share our lived experience with colleagues at academic medical centers nationwide,” says Kirk Campbell, MD, a PI of the grant, Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine, Vice Chair for Diversity and Inclusion, and Director of the Nephrology Fellowship Program, Icahn Mount Sinai.

Another important milestone at Icahn Mount Sinai that has laid the bedrock of the institution’s commitment to antiracism was the 2020 establishment of the Institute for Health Equity Research (IHER), whose Co-Director, Lynne D. Richardson, MD, is also a PI on the grant. Dr. Richardson is Professor of Emergency Medicine, and Population Health Science and Policy, and Vice Chair of Emergency Medicine for the Mount Sinai Health System. IHER was founded to study how systems have led to groups of individuals being disproportionately and unjustly impacted by inequitable policies and practices that lead to excess illness, suffering, and death.

“We are deeply honored to receive this generous gift from the NIH. We join an impressive cohort of partner institutions who will collaborate in this urgent and important endeavor. We are mission-driven in our pursuit of diversity and inclusion in academic medicine and research, and together, we will develop evidence-based strategies that create long-lasting systemic change,” says Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean, Icahn Mount Sinai, and President for Academic Affairs, Mount Sinai Health System.

“We are absolutely thrilled by this news and looking forward to working with the NIH FIRST cohort of schools in our shared vision of greater diversity among our faculty in the biomedical sciences,” says Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, the grant’s fourth PI, Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience, Director of The Friedman Brain Institute, and Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs. Icahn Mount Sinai’s involvement in the NIH FIRST initiative will build upon the institution’s earlier groundwork to address faculty diversity, most notably its recently launched Biomedical Laureates Program; Dr. Nestler was an early champion of this effort, which announced its first faculty appointments in June. 

“With the generous support of the NIH, we now feel that we are truly equipped to bring forward meaningful change. What we know from studying the careers of underrepresented groups in academic medicine is that our strategies on an individual level can be successful, but to drive a level of change that is institutional and systemic, we need an approach that is integrated,” says Dr. Nestler.

Click here to watch a video to learn more about these efforts and the work of the Center for Scientific Diversity at Icahn Mount Sinai.




About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. We advance medicine and health through unrivaled education and translational research and discovery to deliver care that is the safest, highest-quality, most accessible and equitable, and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 free-standing joint-venture centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked in U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the top 20 U.S. hospitals and among the top in the nation by specialty: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Urology, and Rehabilitation. Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital is ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” among the country’s best in four out of 10 pediatric specialties. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked among the Top 20 nationally for ophthalmology. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools," aligned with a U.S. News & World Report "Honor Roll" Hospital, and No. 14 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding. Newsweek’s “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York and top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside as top 20 globally, and “The World’s Best Specialized Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Heart as No. 1 in New York and No. 4 globally and the Division of Gastroenterology as No. 3 globally. For more information, visit or find Mount Sinai on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.




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