Skip to main content

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 Development (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 Dr. Digna R. Velez Edwards, Dr. Julie Rhoades (Sterling), and Dr. Henrique Serezani. Dr. Digna R. Velez Edwards is an genetic epidemiologist, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, director of the Division of Quantitative Sciences, and director of the Women’s Health Research Center. Dr. Julie Rhoades (Sterling) is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and a research scientist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. Dr. Henrique Serezani is an associate professor in the Departments of Medicine, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, and Pharmacology and the Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology.

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).