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Thursday, January 28, 2021

$10 million endowment strengthens research into health disparities

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) has awarded a $10 million endowment to the University of North Texas Health Science Center, one of only two institutions nationally to receive the federal funds, according to a news release.

The university believes the endowment will “further elevate UNTHSC as a national leader in research into health disparities.”

The endowment will be paid out to UNTHSC over five years and is permanently invested. The release said investment proceeds will be used to support university infrastructure and health disparity focused research capacity.

“Health disparities result in segments of the population without access to quality health care and new medical advances that can help them achieve optimal health,” Jamboor Vishwanatha, PhD, Principal Investigator and Texas Center for Health Disparities Project Director, said in the release. “This permanent endowment recognizes that the Health Science Center is a national leader in the effort to discover solutions to these disparities and improve the health of millions of people affected by them.”

The NIMHD endowment program was mandated in 2001 by Congress to expand the infrastructure of institutions that are committed to health disparities research. While endowments do not directly support specific research projects, they do support the scientists and students who conduct them.

The release said that the university will use the endowment to support three key priorities:

— Develop an Interdisciplinary Research Leadership Program in health disparities for junior faculty.

— Establish a Health, Education, Awareness and Research in Disparities (HEARD) scholarship program for the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty.

— Increase the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral and clinical research workforce by supporting stipends for PhD students each year to conduct research in minority health and health disparities.

After the $10 million has been paid out at the end of the five years, UNTHSC will be eligible to apply for a second, five-year cycle of the NIMHD endowment program. The total investment could eventually grow to $27-35 million, which could support 42 Interdisciplinary Research Leaders, 28 HEARD scholars and 98 Ph.D. students, Vishwanatha said.

UNTHSC, the only Texas university to be designated as one of 12 national Specialized Centers of Excellence in Health Disparities, will share about $82 million over five years with the other universities selected.

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