Investigator Development Core (IDC)

The overall goal of the Investigator Development Core (IDC) is to establish clusters of excellence in health disparities research, focusing on those diseases that affect the Puerto Rican population and factors that impact health status and quality of life both at the individual and population levels. To achieve this goal a pilot-project program (PPP) will nurture the growth of promising junior faculty within the UPR-MSC by soliciting, reviewing, and awarding funds to innovative proposals that will lead to competitive independent funding. The specific aims of the IDC are three-fold: 1) to mentor early career investigators as they transition to independent funding; 2) to fund innovative basic, behavioral and/or clinical pilot projects focusing on health disparities and/or minority health; 3) to match RCMI faculty with outside collaborators/mentors in order to strengthen collaborative networks.

The Investigator Development Core leverages experience gained through the Pilot Project Program (PPP), established by the RCMI Program in 2001 under the leadership of Dr. Gregory Quirk. A committee comprised of external experienced investigators at research-intensive institutions assists in the selection of the projects. Mentoring activities provided by Dr. Quirk are complemented by Dr. Luis Montaner, who coordinates the Career Enhancement Activities supported by the Administrative Core.

Pilot Project Program.  Funding provided by the PPP is directed toward research proposals targeting minority health and health disparities research, including basic, behavioral and clinical/health services research. Early Career Investigators (ECIs) and senior postdocs are encouraged to focus on projects related to health-disparity diseases relevant to the Puerto Rican population: cancer, infectious diseases, neurological disorders, and cardiovascular/metabolic diseases. Projects involving strong community engagement are given higher priority.

Progress of PPP awardees is assessed on a regular basis with the assistance of the external evaluator, who will identify obstacles and barriers encountered by the grantees in the completion of their proposed projects. Based on this assessment, PPP investigators devise strategies to overcome identified barriers and obstacles, making use of available resources at the CCRMHD.

Career Enhancement Activities. This component includes (1) a mentoring program to assist new and early-career investigators through career planning, development and grantsmanship by providing one-on-one professional mentorship to complement scientific mentorship; (2) an on-line course in the skills necessary to be successful in a research career, including discussions of bioethical issues relevant to research; and (3) a seminar series focusing on the protection and commercialization of intellectual property, especially in a collaborative multidisciplinary setting. These activities are performed in coordination with other mentoring initiatives being conducted at the MSC or offered by the National Mentoring Research Network (NRMN) to avoid duplication of efforts and to leverage resources.