This year, the iTHRIV Scholars cohort is growing from within. Irène Mathieu, MD, an assistant professor of Pediatrics, and Patricia Rodriguez-Lozano, MD, an assistant professor of medicine, joined the 2022 Scholars cohort following their participation in the iDRIV program.
iDRIV, Inspiring Diverse Researchers in Virginia, is a year-long mentoring program to jump-start the research journey of early-career and aspiring faculty at UVA who are from groups that are nationally underrepresented in clinical and translational science.
Diverse research teams have a proven track-record of boosting creativity and productivity, yet diversity is notably lacking in our current scientific workforce. iDRIV has a foundational commitment to supporting the success of driven investigators and sees the crucial value of creating a network of diverse researchers in order to enhance our mission to improve human health. “For teams to be effective, they must reflect the communities they serve, especially in translational medical research”, says Sana Syed, MD, program director of iDRIV and alumna of the iTHRIV Scholars program. “I have seen firsthand how different experiences voiced in a group promote clearer thinking and better conversations. If ideas are contextualized against the experiences of others, unintended consequences, implicit bias, and unjust outcomes can be avoided and we can ensure that modern medical advancements improve the lives of all.”
By designing complementary programs, iTHRIV supports researchers throughout their careers. “The iDRIV program is a great opportunity for aspiring researchers to think about tools and techniques for time management, project management, negotiation, and more. It’s really about preparation and planning, whereas iTHRIV is about actually implementing a research project,” Mathieu says.
“As a primary care pediatrician with a primarily clinical role, iDRIV was a perfect program to help me get my foot in the research door,” Mathieu says. Because of her iDRIV experience, Mathieu successfully negotiated more time for research in her job description and has smoothly transitioned from primarily clinical faculty to spending the majority of her time on research as an iTHRIV Scholar.
Mathieu entered iDRIV knowing that she would apply to be an iTHRIV Scholar. She had already drafted her letter of intent and identified most of her mentor/collaborator team prior to joining iDRIV. Because she was “informed by the mentorship of some of the faculty I met through iDRIV,” Mathieu used her year in iDRIV to bolster and finalize her iTHRIV Scholars program application.
For Rodriguez-Lozano, iDRIV solidified her goal to be an “independent, continuously funded investigator in women’s heart disease clinical research” and “matured her 10-year career plan.” The program helped her to recognize the importance of strong mentoring relationships and better understand the skills necessary to become a successful research scientist.
“After graduating from iDRIV, I felt equipped with the knowledge of the opportunities I could be eligible for. I also built a solid mentoring team and network to look for guidance,” Rodriguez-Lozano remarks. It was during iDRIV that she first heard of the iTHRIV Scholars program, and it fit right in with her future plans. “[Through iDRIV] I realized I needed to mature my understanding of research methods and quantitative and analytical skills in clinical and translational research.” These are just some of the skills that she will develop during the iTHRIV Scholars program.
This year, Mathieu and Rodriguez-Lozano join 6 other early-career scientists in the iTHRIV Scholars program, a mentored career development award that takes place over a two-year period. This program is supported in-part by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, through award number KL2TR003016. In addition to conducting their proposed research project, Scholars meet weekly for professional development activities that prepare them for a successful future in translational health research. Programming focuses on the principles of data science, the conduct of rigorous and reproducible science, and team science as a means to enhance innovation and discovery in health-related research.
“While iDRIV is designed to provide impactful support and mentorship to accelerate the career trajectories of diverse, young faculty, iTHRIV catalyzes their growth as translational investigators by providing impactful resources and infrastructure,” says Syed. “We are so proud of the iDRIV participants who have been accepted into the iTHRIV program. This synergy has fostered the growth of brilliant investigators who will soon become the next leaders in science and medicine, paving the way towards a more diverse, representative, and equitable scientific workforce.”
iDRIV is funded, in part, by iTHRIV’s NIH-NCATS award UL1TR003015 and by the School of Medicine Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, Pathology, Surgery, Urology, and Dermatology.
Article by L. Keith Jones, Communications Coordinator, iTHRIV