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Program Overview

Diversity and Biomedical Research

Vanderbilt and Diversity – A History of Commitment and Success 

Vanderbilt University has long held that progress toward better treatments and/or cures for the many daunting medical problems we face can only be achieved with the concerted effort of the most talented and committed biomedical researchers, regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic background or gender.  Over the past seventeen years the Graduate Programs in Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt have awarded over 100 Ph.D degrees to students underrepresented in biomedical research as of Commencement 2018.  In fact Vanderbilt is one of the leading universities in the country in awarding Ph.Ds to underrepresented minority students outside of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).


For more than a decade, a central focus of the commitment at Vanderbilt to educating a diverse biomedical research workforce ­­has been the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD).  The IMSD is a program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that has been in existence at Vanderbilt since 2000.  First developed as a postbacculaurate program, today the IMSD program serves graduate students underrepresented in medicine who have matriculated at Vanderbilt (an NIH requirement) to ensure their successful completion of the doctoral degree.  Currently the IMSD program at Vanderbilt is under the co-direction of Roger Chalkley, D.Phil.; Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Research, Education and Training, and Linda Sealy, Ph.D; Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and Cell & Developmental Biology.


The IMSD program provides a holistic admissions route for students entering Vanderbilt biomedical graduate programs, and then extensive and careful mentoring throughout the entire graduate training period from first year to dissertation defense.  Up to 90% of Vanderbilt IMSD students successfully compete for external funding during their graduate careers, including prestigious individual fellowships, training grants, and research grant supplements.  The attrition rate from this program is extremely low (<5%). Our graduates go on to develop careers in academic research, obtaining positions as postdoctoral fellows at leading research universities around the country, as well as in biopharma and in other areas (public policy, college teaching, etc).