Harvard University's Mongan Fellows visit NIH
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) hosted the Harvard University Commonwealth Fund Mongan Fellows in Minority Health Policy on the campus of the National Institutes of Health on Friday, March 18, 2016, wrapping up the final site visit in the fellows' week-long Washington, D.C. tour. Other sites visited by the fellows throughout the week included: United States Department of Defense, The Pentagon, US Food and Drug Administration, HHS Office of Minority Health, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, PCORI, and Americas Essential Hospitals.
The fellowship is a one-year, full-time, academic degree-granting program designed for minority physicians to prepare them for leadership roles in health care delivery systems and promote health policies and practices that improve access to health care for racial and ethnic minorities as well as disadvantaged groups and other vulnerable populations. During the year-long fellowship, the physicians complete academic course work leading to either a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, or a Master of Public Administration degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.
The site visit was coordinated by Dr. Regina James, Director of NIMHD's Clinical and Health Services Research in the Division of Scientific Programs.
"I've actually been hosting this for about five to six years now, and I really enjoy it," said James in her introduction to the fellows. "What I want to know is what you hope to learn here, and what you hope to get out of this visit."
This year's visiting fellows included five physicians, each with different disciplines and backgrounds, yet all equally eager to make their mark addressing minority health and health disparities. Dr. Shanele Williams is a dentist, receiving her dental degree from Meharry Medical College with a focus on the reduction of oral health disparities amongst minorities. Dr. Nicole DelCastillo has a background in child psychiatry, receiving her medical degree from Southern Illinois University and is interested in nontraditional options to address mental health disparities in disadvantaged youth. Pediatrician, Dr. Joan Jeung received her medical degree form the University of California and is interested in redesigning pediatric primary care. Dr. Samantha Rosman is a pediatric emergency medicine physician from Columbia University, her focus is on early childhood education to advance health, and Dr. Andrew Sanderson II is a graduate of Howard University College of Medicine with a focus on gastroenterology and cancer prevention through the promotion of early screening.
Although NIMHD's Director, Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable, could not be present physically to welcome the fellows, his words stood as a resounding reminder of the promising future ahead for each young physician.
"I'm very excited for where you are in your career," said Dr. Perez-Stable on a recorded video welcome, "and I hope to see more research scientists in the field of minority health."
Several presenters from NIH institutes discussed minority health and health disparity issues associated with their respective institutes.
Dr. Jane Atkinson, chief of the Center for Clinical Research, Division of Extramural Research, in the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, said the best indication of a person's lack of health is in the presence of unfilled cavities, which is often seen in people of a lower socioeconomic status and minority groups. She noted one of the most pressing disparities in the field is that of oral cancer, and while improvements have been made to reduce fatality numbers, African American men continue to have a lower survival rate than that of their Caucasian counterparts.
Dr. Pamela Collins, director of the Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health, in the National Institute of Mental Health, stated a major disparity in the United States in relation to mental health is that of untreated psychosis. She mentioned that many experiencing this illness won't seek immediate medical help, going without a diagnosis and subsequent treatment for more than a year.
"In the United States, people actually spend a year and a half without seeking medical care," stated Dr. Collins.
The third presenter, Dr. Lawrence Agodoa, director of the Office of Minority Health Research Coordination in the National Institute on Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases discussed his institute's participation in the Step Up program and their overall goal to diversify the biomedical research field.
Dr. Brett Miller, director of the Reading, Writing, and Related Learning Disabilities Program in the Child Development and Behavioral Branch in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, emphasized his department's focus on childhood normative development and the risks of not achieving that development associated with abuse and neglect.
Dr. Leah Miller, a research program officer in the Office of Research on Women's Health, discussed their office push on the inclusion of sex as a biological variable when conducting medical research.
After the presentations, the fellows expressed their interest in NIH as a possible career path in the future.
"I'd be interested in extramural research," said Dr. Williams along with her cohorts in agreement.