National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK) director Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, MACP, discussed the institute’s commitment to health disparities research in an Oct. 5 Friends of NIDDK-convened congressional briefing.

APA joined forces with the Friends of NIDDK coalition for a congressional briefing headlining NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, MACP as he discussed the institute’s commitment to eradicate health disparities.  The coalition supports the mission, funding, and research conducted by the institute.

The briefing highlighted the institute’s approach to addressing racial health disparities both in and through research, underscoring NIDDK’s collaboration with the community. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), who lives with kidney disease and diabetes, provided the briefing’s opening remarks and shared how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted his health care including his three times a week dialysis treatments and the accompanying safety issues. Rep. Payne applauded the briefing as an important means to  increase awareness of the need for research support for the chronic diseases within NIDDK’s mission.

Rodgers noted that many of the diseases within NIDDK’s mission place “disparate burdens on minority groups and people with limited resources.” To achieve the institute’s goal of alleviating health disparities, he explained, the institute has four significant avenues to combat health disparities. These approaches interact and support each other, and include:

  • Recruiting diverse study cohorts inclusive of those most affected, which requires reaching out to the underserved.
  • Opening doors for young people from under-represented groups through training, support, and inspiration to pursue research careers, tapping into a pipeline of ”untapped scientific talent.”
  • Engaging clinical trial participants more broadly in the research process to “help advance scientific inquiry,” including in study design, recruitment, and consent, as well as serving as study volunteers.
  • Supporting research to identify the causes of health disparities—e.g., social determinants of health, crucial to achieving health equity, and “a vital complement to studying the biological etiology of disparities.”

Rodgers also highlighted the institute’s support of the next generation of researchers, including through the High School Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) and the NIDDK Professional Society Programs to Promote Diversity (R25). The programs are designed to diversify the pool of undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral, and faculty pursuing research careers in the biomedical, behavioral, and social science research discipline.” STEP-UP is an eight- to ten-week summer program and supports undergraduates interested in NIDDK-supported research.

APA is one of four grantees of the NIDDK Professional Society Program—Leadership and Education Advancement Program (LEAP) for Diverse Scholars. The program provides mentorship from senior researchers and leaders related to NIDDK’s mission, online and in-person training in career development, leadership, grant writing, financial support for loan application fees, and funding for career development and research activities.

Check out a recording of the briefing.

For more information, contact Angela Sharpe, MG