Since the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) began in 1975, it has supported more than 14,000 clinician-scientist trainees. The program provides predoctoral training grants (T32) to institutions to develop and implement effective, evidence-informed training for students pursuing both a clinical and a research doctorate degree (i.e., M.D.-Ph.D.).
A recently published article written by NIGMS staff showed that while the MSTP has been successful in producing clinician-scientists, women and members of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds remain underrepresented among trainees. These findings, along with suggested approaches for increasing clinician-scientist workforce diversity, appeared in the September 2022 issue of ATS Scholar. The analysis by NIGMS staff found that from 2006 to 2020, the proportions of certain racial/ethnic groups enrolled in MSTPs increased (Asians from 19% to 26%, and Hispanics from 5% to 11%). Similarly, women increased from 36% of trainees to 47%. Meanwhile, the proportion of students identifying as Black/African American hasn’t grown appreciably (4.4% to 5.5%). Overall, a significant majority of programs have low enrollments of Black/African American MSTP trainees, and this hasn’t changed over time. The data indicate that, on average, the main disparity among groups across programs is at the level of application rates rather than rates of admission, matriculation, or graduation.
The results of the analysis highlight the need to focus on overcoming barriers to representation in the clinician-scientist workforce. As a first step, we’re developing a new MSTP funding opportunity that supports a broader range of institution types across the country, including historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, and institutions in states with historically low levels of NIH funding (Institutional Development Award states).
A vibrant and productive clinician-scientist workforce should reflect the diversity of our country, and because the MSTP provides an important pathway to build this workforce, enhancing the diversity in these programs is a critical goal.
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