PRIDE Program aims to increase diversity among young scientists

A program aimed at increasing the diversity of young scientists is being hosted for the fifth year at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

PRIDE, or Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research, is a mentored research program funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that pairs young scientists and seasoned researchers with the goal of helping junior faculty learn what it takes to advance their careers. Participants work with a mentor to learn grant writing skills and hands-on bench research skills related to proteomics, molecular and cellular techniques.

At MCG the program is directed by Dr. Betty Pace, interim chief of hematology/oncology and Francis J. Tedesco, MD, Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, who started one of the first three PRIDE programs at the University of Texas at Dallas in 2006. Pace came to MCG bringing the program, now one of only seven in the country, with her in 2010.

This year, nine mentees from universities across the country will be in Augusta for the PRIDE Summer Institute through July 26. This year’s participants, their research interests and mentors are:

  • Dr. Kehinde Adekola from Northwestern University, who is focused on improving survival after hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Adekola will work with Dr. Joseph Telfair, chairman of the Department of Community Health and Behavior at Georgia Southern University.
  • Dr. Athena Starlard-Davenport from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, whose research interests are focused on understanding genetic influences of disease risk and clinical outcomes in blacks. She will work with Pace.
  • Dr. Ashley Fitzgerald of Louisiana State University, who studies health disparities in underrepresented communities. She is being mentored by Dr. Tessie October, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
  • Dr. Alisa Rich of the University of North Texas Health Science Center, whose research centers around identifying biomarkers that confirm chemical exposure and risk for cardiovascular disease. Her mentor is Dr. Rob Williams from the Department of Genetics, Genomics and Informatics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
  • Dr. Eboni Lance from Johns Hopkins University, who studies protein biomarkers in sickle cell disease. Lance’s mentor is Dr. Frederick Korley, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan.
  • Dr. Titilope Fasipe from Baylor College of Medicine, whose research is focused on understanding the factors that govern inflammation and erythrocyte adhesion in sickle cell disease. Fasipe’s mentor is Dr. Theodosia Kalfa, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute.
  • Dr. Mesia Steed of Winston-Salem State University, who studies matrix metalloproteinase gene activation related to the integrity of vessels in the brain. Steed is being mentored by Dr. Sandra Murray, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
  • Dr. Ariadna Forray from the Yale University School of Medicine, who studies pain in adult sickle cell patients. Forray’s mentor is Dr. Wally Smith, a professor of internal medicine and scientific director at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Health Disparities.
  • Dr. Scharri Walker from Tougaloo College, whose research focuses on thrombosis in cancer. Her mentor is Dr. Ulrike M. Reiss, director of clinical hematology at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

PRIDE program sites have trained 345 mentees since the program’s inception – 66 of those under Pace’s leadership.


Writer: Jennifer Hilliard Scott

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