Team to research ways to aid women medical faculty with help of NIH grant

by admin on 10/21/10 at 2:18 pm

Originally published by Susan Ipaktchian in Inside Stanford Medicine on October 20, 2010. See the original story here.

HannahValantineHannah Valantine, MD, the senior associate dean for diversity and leadership at the Stanford University School of Medicine and former Clayman Faculty Research Fellow, was recently awarded a $2 million, three-year Pathfinder grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant is one of six to be awarded by the NIH and funds researchers searching for new approaches to creating a more diverse workforce in the sciences.

Valantine will be supported in her efforts by Clayman Institute Director and associate professor of sociology Shelley Correll, PhD, as well as Sabine Girod, MD, DDS, Phd, associate professor of sugery and former Clayman Faculty Research Fellow; Daisy Grewal, PhD, research scientist for the Office of Diversity and Leadership; Philip Lavori, PhD, Greg Walton, PhD, Marilyn Winkleby, PhD, Allan Reiss, MD, and Vyjeyanthi Periyakoil, MD, from the Stanford School of Medicine; and post-doctoral scholar Brian Haas.

The team plans to focus on measuring and counteracting the effects of “stereotype threat” among female academics in medical fields. “Stereotype threat” is a concept originally proposed by a former Clayman Institute affiliated faculty member in psychology at Stanford, Claude Steele, PhD. The concept, backed by several research studies, predicts that individuals behave differently if they feel that their achievements are being evaluated in part by a negative stereotype. Valantine’s team is the first to study this phenomenon in women who have already begun careers – previous research has focused exclusively on students and young adults.

The team plans to begin by pinpointing the specific situations and environmental cues that cause women who are junior faculty to feel threatened by the stereotype that women underachieve in scientific pursuits. “Currently, the factors that prevent women from advancing in academic medical careers are ambiguous, and medical school administrators end up guessing as to how to best address them,” said Valantine.

After they have documented the patterns of stereotype threat in the field of academic medicine, her team plans to design and test different methods to combat these barriers, drawing from previous interventions. Co-investigator Christy Sandborg, MD, explained that “we need controlled studies to unambiguously define which interventions are effective for increasing diversity in the biomedical research workforce. We think our research will go a long way toward helping medical schools identify the best methods of supporting the careers of all their faculty.”

Stanford University Medical School has outpaced national averages for percentages of women faculty and doubled the number of underrepresented minority faculty since the Office of Diversity and Leadership was created in 2004. Valantine, however, is not yet satisfied. “Despite the metrics of significant progress at Stanford, we want to do even better. I am truly delighted to receive the Pathfinder Award because it will enable Stanford to build on its prior efforts to enhance the retention of women and underrepresented minority faculty.”

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