Expanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Opportunities in Pediatric Gastroentroenterology and Nutrition

Expanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Opportunities in Pediatric Gastroentroenterology and Nutrition

Joel Lavine, MD Ph.D., has spent his entire career in academic medicine, serving on the faculties of the University of California, San Francisco, Harvard Medical School, University of California, San Diego, and Columbia University.  Over 25 years, he served as Chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at both UCSD and Columbia and as Vice-Chairperson at both those institutions. In his role as Vice-Chair of Fellow and Faculty Development at UCSD, and as Vice-Chair of Research in Pediatrics at Columbia, he has endeavored to identify talented and diverse trainees and faculty, seek valuable resources and mentors for initiating and cultivating their talent and promote their unique capabilities in the academic and broader community.   This recognition and direction are aimed at motivating younger underprivileged minorities to find mentors and live up to their full potential.

As Chief at Columbia Vagelos School of Medicine, Dr. Joel Lavine was Associate Director of the NIH-funded Digestive Disease Center, a joint training grant with Pediatrics and Internal Medicine (led by T. Wang, MD). This grant-funded the training of multiple minorities in the Pediatric GI/Hepatology Fellowship for up to 3 years of training, allowing each fellow 80% of their time in their second and third year of training uninterrupted research time to pursue their interests.

Often, coming out of residency, the fellows had not cultivated their research talents and were unaware of the fabulous mentors they could work with to find a unique niche at the interface of their discipline and others such as engineering, genetics, quality improvement, cellular biology, and epidemiology. Joel Lavine MD scoured the University and Medical School faculty for dynamic leaders who were willing and enthusiastic about working to develop our diverse minority talent and place them in unique positions to thrive. As such, many diverse trainees were put up for grants from the American Medical School Pediatric Department Chair’s Society (AMSPDC), with Pediatric Scientist Development Program, which provided $300,000 per trainee to pursue in-depth training in highly regarded laboratories.

Dr. Joel Lavine succeeded in having 3 of 3 fellows that applied being funded with this prestigious award, being the most successful Division Chief in having his trainees funded. Each of these trainees ended up with premier academic appointments as Assistant Professors following these grants, continuing the valuable research they started in those labs. Dr. Lavine also recruited African-American/African minority junior faculty members coming out of fellowship who received major funding while starting on faculty at Columbia.

This included one Assistant Professor (a Boston Children’s fellow with an MDPhD) who received a $1.2million dollar start-up award from the Provost’s Office, with this being the first award provided for the newly minted program to increase underrepresented minorities in the tenure track faculty.  He also hired two minority fellows who subsequently received Harold Amos Minority Awards from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One studied health disparities resulting in increased prevalence of obese youth in underprivileged communities; the other studied the basic science of allergic esophageal disease and its underlying mechanisms that interfere with swallowing and gut motility. Finally, Dr. Lavine had $15 million dollars donated to New York-Presbyterian on behalf of his diagnosing and caring for the family of a philanthropic family that provided in part funds used for new minority faculty start-ups in the Division.

While Vice-Chair of Research at Columbia, Joel Lavine MD was Co-Director of the pediatric portion of the Independent Studies Proposal program for the Clinical Research Training Institute (CTRI) at Columbia, an NIH-funded U54 Program. This program’s funds provided needed research funds for minorities to submit proposals unique to pediatrics.  He also developed a central clinical research center with funding from iACT (Institute for Advanced Clinical Trials) for the entirety of the clinical faculty to have support for industry-based clinical trials with experienced clinical coordinators, schedulers, specimen processors, and nursing. This was augmented with funds from an annual Columbia child health fund-raising event that raised $600,000 for starting up. With this resource, the entirety of the faculty was able to take on clinical research projects related to their area of clinical expertise while not having to concern themselves with hiring, training, or performing the research aspects of the problem under study.


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