$5M Mastercard grant funds diversity at Weill Cornell

Weill Cornell Medicine will launch a suite of innovative programs to foster and sustain a more diverse faculty through the support of a $5 million grant from the Mastercard Impact Fund.

With the goal of establishing mentorship and inclusion standards in academic medicine and health care, the grant will support a range of diversity and inclusion programs including the development of a mentoring curriculum, the establishment of a faculty diversity incentive program and competitive career development awards for junior faculty from underrepresented in medicine (URM) populations and those with childcare commitments, often female faculty.

The Mastercard Impact Fund was established by Mastercard in 2018 with 20% of the company’s savings from U.S. and European tax reform to administer grants related to inclusive growth. The grant is an extension of Mastercard’s In-Solidarity commitment to use the full breadth of its resources to combat discrimination and advance inclusion and equality.

“At Weill Cornell Medicine, we have established diversity and mentorship as chief priorities and fundamental pillars of our institution’s mission, developing numerous, robust initiatives geared toward increasing representation and nurturing talent in medicine,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and provost for medical affairs of Cornell University. “We are profoundly grateful to Mastercard for this generous grant, which will enable us to further cultivate generations of exemplary health care leaders whose diverse backgrounds and experiences will serve to advance patient care and medical research.”

“At Mastercard, we lead with decency to drive equality and ensure people, communities and businesses can thrive,” said Shamina Singh, president of the Mastercard Impact Fund. “We are pleased to support the efforts of Weill Cornell Medicine to develop innovative programs that cultivate and nurture diverse talent for the betterment of patients, communities and the health care system overall.”

The Diversity-Mentorship Collaborative program will be administered jointly by Weill Cornell Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Office of Faculty Development, under the direction of Dr. Said Ibrahim, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, and Dr. Katherine Hajjar, senior associate dean for faculty. Together they will also convene an advisory committee, which will include senior Weill Cornell Medicine faculty and a Mastercard representative to provide advice and suggestions regarding program activities and assess progress towards strategic goals.

“Advancing diversity and inclusion is a top priority for this institution, and one of our leading objectives is to boost the number of URM faculty through recruitment, retention, advancement and mentoring,” Ibrahim said. “These programs will support our mission of leveling the playing field for all faculty, in both clinical care and research, and enhance access to high quality and equitable health care for all. We are incredibly thankful for Mastercard’s support.”

“For faculty members who are underrepresented in medicine or face challenges as the primary parent in their household, building strong mentor relationships can provide them with a model for their own career path’s potential,” Hajjar said. “With Mastercard’s support, these programs will allow us to recruit more diverse faculty, nurture their careers and help foster their successes in academic medicine and health care.”

The Diversity-Mentorship Collaborative will oversee four new faculty diversity and mentorship programs:

  • The Mastercard Pilot Grant Program: One of the key barriers to professional advancement for physician-scientists is the lack of protected time for research. The Mastercard Pilot Grant Program will provide up to two years of competitive funding to URM faculty, defined by the National Institutes of Health as being underrepresented populations in science and medicine, for promising research projects. This will allow them to balance their clinical responsibilities with time in the lab and provide the opportunity to collect preliminary findings needed to apply for federal National Institutes of Health career-development grants. This program will fund five faculty members per year for five years, with a focus on the assistant professor level.
  • The Mastercard Research Assistance for Primary Parents Program will allow faculty engaged in research who are also primary caregivers in their household to apply for funding for research assistance. The goal of this initiative is to help these faculty members with the challenges of balancing the research demands and family commitments often felt by young, predominantly female faculty. This program is also designed to benefit assistant professors, with special attention to URM faculty.
  • The Mastercard Faculty Diversity Incentive Program will support diversifying Weill Cornell Medicine’s faculty body, by offering salary support for up to two new URM faculty recruits per year for their first two years at the institution. While all hiring decisions will be made by Weill Cornell Medicine, based on applicable institutional policies, the program will seek to encourage department chairs and division chiefs to act as champions for faculty diversity. Faculty who are supported through this initiative will also participate in mentoring programs.
  • The Mastercard Mentoring Program will seek to enhance and sustain a culture of mentorship at Weill Cornell Medicine so that all junior faculty have access to professional career-building connections.

The Diversity-Mentorship Collaborative will aim to be operational by fall 2021. The initiative will ultimately build upon the institution’s foundational mission of enhancing diversity and inclusion in medicine and aim to establish an infrastructure of mentorship that would support all research faculty at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Through its commitment to diversity and inclusion, Weill Cornell Medicine has advanced a series of initiatives in recent years, including broadening the scope of its Office of Diversity and Inclusion, establishing an annual Diversity Week and supporting annual Diversity Awards, which honor service, research and leadership.

The institution also maintains numerous pipeline programs aimed at recruiting underrepresented students into medicine. In the past year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has established regular virtual Diversity Town Hall meetings, which were initially launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate effects on Black, Latino and disadvantaged communities, but quickly developed into a broader dialogue about inequality. And in the wake of last summer’s reckoning with racial injustice in America, the institution also created the Office of Institutional Equity to develop, coordinate and operationalize institutional programs and initiatives designed to advance equity at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Kathryn Inman is associate editor for Weill Cornell Medicine. Elaine Meyer is a writer and editorial consultant for Weill Cornell Medicine.

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