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New CFAR award to support Indigenous scholars on their path to HIV-related research careers

UW EPI NEWS | December 2, 2021
3 minutes to read

The UW/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) has received a CFAR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pipeline Initiative (CDEIPI) Award for a project titled “Navigating research: Supporting undergraduate and graduate Indigenous scholars on their path to HIV-related research careers.” The CDEIPI award, offered by the District of Columbia CFAR, upholds an overarching aim of “increasing the number of Underrepresented Minorities / Black, Indigenous, and People of Color trainees who are engaged in HIV science at the high school, undergraduate, graduate (masters, doctoral or medical) and post-doctoral levels and to develop pathways for these CFAR Scholars to lead successful careers in science and medicine1.”

The UW/Fred Hutch CDEIPI project will be led by our newly appointed CFAR DEI Lead and Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Jen Balkus, PhD, MPH and Co-Director of the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI), Professor and Associate Dean in the School of Social Work, Karina Walters, PhD, MSW.

The project will feature collaborations across the University of Washington (UW), the University of Hawai’i at Mãnoa (UH-M; project partner Keawe Kaholokula, PhD), and builds upon the incredibly successful Indigenous HIV/AIDS Research Training (IHART) Program, led by Dr. Walters and Co-PIs Theresa Evans-Campbell, MSW, PhD, and Jane Simoni, PhD, MA that has supported career development of a number of early-stage and mid-career Indigenous researchers.

“This award provides a unique opportunity to streamline the pipeline for UW and UH-M Native health scholars and strengthen the partnering relationship between IWRI and CFAR,” says Dr. Walters.

With a more upstream focus, the UW/Fred Hutch CDEIPI project will introduce American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN), Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander (NHPI) undergraduate and graduate scholars to key topics in HIV-related research and to connect them with Indigenous mentors working in the same field.

Additionally, the funding will enable the UW/Fred Hutch CFAR to enhance the mentoring skills of research faculty working within the institutions which comprise our consortium, who currently work with or plan to work with Indigenous scholars.

Commended by NIH reviewers as one of the only proposals in the national CFAR network that is specifically aimed at supporting and improving research outcomes of Indigenous Scholars, we are proud to make this critical investment in the success of our AIAN and NHPI trainees, and this commitment to DEI more broadly.

As expressed by Dr. Balkus, “By focusing our training efforts upstream, we will link undergraduate and graduate Indigenous scholars to a well-established and highly impactful training program, providing opportunities for continued personal and professional development that will aid them as they progress towards becoming HIV researchers. This pilot program will serve as a critical starting point toward building a sustainable program to attract and retain Indigenous scholars who are at the early stages of their academic journey.”

The UW/Fred Hutch CFAR consortium partners include the Center for Infectious Disease Research, the Infectious Disease Research Institute, Seattle Children’s, and the University of Hawai’i. CFAR’s 700+ members also represent many other local and regional institutions with HIV programs and collaborative research outside of the US with partnerships in Kenya, Mozambique, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and other countries.

1. CFAR Diversity, equity, and Inclusion Pipeline Initiative (CDEIPI): District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research: The George Washington University. CFAR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pipeline Initiative | District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research | The George Washington University.