Origins of the Study

As part of the Minority Health Initiative launched by NIH in 1992, a trans-NIH study—the Assessment of NIH Minority Research Training Programs—was initiated by the Office of Research on Minority Health (ORMH) in the Office of the Director at NIH. The goal of this study was to answer a fundamental question: Do the NIH minority research and research training programs work? Specifically, have they been successful in helping minority students and faculty members move a step forward toward productive careers as research scientists? In addition to answering the basic outcome question, the core of the assessment was to identify which features of minority programs are most effective in helping students and faculty advance to the next step in their careers.

The study was implemented in three phases. ORMH conducted phases 1 and 2. The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), the successor to ORMH,8 then asked the National Academies to conduct phase 3, as an independent study that would draw on the findings of ORMH’s earlier work. Phase 1 focused on presenting an overview of NIH extramural research training programs and summarized available information and trend data for each of the major NIH minority research training programs.9 In 1993, ORMH completed phase 1 and documented an overall pattern of minority underrepresentation in the biological, behavioral, and clinical sciences (hereafter referred to as “biomedical” sciences). Despite moderate improvements in recent years in the number and proportion of Ph.D. degrees earned by underrepresented minorities, there has not been a marked increase in the number of minorities who have been successful in securing mainstream NIH research grants not specifically targeted for minorities.

In 1997, ORMH reported on phase 2 of the study, which assessed the feasibility of a trans-NIH assessment of minority research training programs (phase 3) and determined the appropriate scope of that endeavor. Research questions and potential data sources useful to phase 3 of the study were identified.10

In 2001, NCMHD contracted with the National Academies to undertake the phase 3 assessment. NCMHD chose the National Academies based on its independence, its ability to collect and integrate quantitative and qualitative data from NIH ICs, and its ability to convene national experts who could analyze and assess these data in an


In 2000, ORMH became the NCMHD. Congress specified in Public Law 106-525 that the purpose of NCMHD is “… the conduct and support of research, training, dissemination of information, and other programs with respect to minority health conditions and other populations with health disparities.” Furthermore, Congress empowered NCMHD to “… make awards of grants or contracts to designated biomedical and behavioral research institutions, … for the purpose of assisting the institutions in supporting programs of excellence in biomedical and behavioral research training for individuals who are members of minority health disparity populations or other health disparity populations.”


Office of Research on Minority Health, National Institutes of Health. 1993. Assessment of NIH Minority Research/Training Programs: Phase 1. Bethesda, Md.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Office of Research on Minority Health, National Institutes of Health. 1997. Assessment of NIH Minority Research/Training Programs: Phase 2, Bethesda. Md.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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