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Summer 2021

iDRIV's Program Director, Dr. Sana Syed

iTHRIV seeks to Inspire Diverse Researchers in Virginia

The Integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV) with support from the University of Pittsburgh (UPitt) is participating in the “Building Up a Diverse Workforce for Biomedical Research” study. Building Up is a national study led by the University of Pittsburgh (UPitt) and aims to test the effectiveness of a career development intervention developed for postdocs and junior faculty who are underrepresented in health-related sciences.

The program aims to provide education and professional development through coaching, mentoring and sponsorship and is led locally by Dr. Sana Syed.  The primary goals are to improve career outcomes and work culture for those persons underrepresented in biomedical sciences, thus diversifying and improving the quality of the research workforce.

The curriculum consists of 12 monthly 1.5-hour collaborative sessions. Topics include practical skills such as finding research resources, giving effective presentations, and writing productivity. The program also educates and advises on softer and more specific skills like networking for inclusion, promoting oneself on social media, and handling difficult conversations. Each session is a mix of presentations and panel discussions with opportunities for the participants to share their own experiences.  Participants are also required to take a proposal development course and a medical writing course and are given opportunities to network with faculty from all over the University.

This year’s Building Up Scholars included 8 female participants (1 Assistant Professor, 2 postdoctoral Research Associates, 4 Fellows and 1 Research Associate).  Participants have expressed appreciation for the program, “I really appreciate this program. I feel it’s helped me a lot to grow and know more about how to prepare a good career”, stated Ruoding Shi, PhD in Public Health Sciences.


Patricia Lozano, MD adds that the program "changed my life in a lot of ways…this program has helped me a lot in the sense of trying to have a balance and be efficient so at the same time I don’t get burnt out. It really has helped me a lot.”

Going forward, UVA will offer a similar program known as “Inspiring Diverse Researchers in Virginia” or iDRIV for short, thanks to support from iTHRIV and the UVA School of Medicine Departments of Medicine, Pathology, Pediatrics, Public Health Sciences, and Surgery.  The program plans for up to 10 new scholars and will begin early this fall.  Ultimately, the program will seek NIH R25 funding to expand the program to include all iTHRIV partner sites.

Smiles are shared between Building Up facilitators and participants Sandra Burks, Jenny Phillips, Janet Cross, Sana Syed, Rhuoding Shi, Paola Vargas, Francesca Schiaffino, and Patricia Rodriguez Lozano

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