Increasing Diversity in the 21st Century: The Role of Mentoring

2017 Faculty Leaders Program Keynote Address

About the Keynote

The Pardee RAND Graduate School is committed to helping ensure that diverse voices and perspectives are an integral part of the policymaking process. Through the Faculty Leaders Program, we seek to build diversity in public policy through strong engagement of faculty who train the next generation of leaders across the United States, in particular at colleges and universities serving students underrepresented in public policy. Each year, Pardee RAND invites a noted speaker to discuss a policy issue of relevance to underrepresented communities.


Increasing diversity in the biomedical and health professions in the 21st century will require a multidimensional approach. A 2015 NSF report noted that in 2012 an insufficient number of doctoral degrees and academic appointments were awarded in science and engineering fields to women (they earned only 40% of scientific doctorates), African Americans (6.3%), and Latinos (6.5%).

Individuals and environments conspire to undermine the development of women, low-income individuals, and underrepresented minorities (URM) at different career stages. Institutionalized racism and sexism, hostile climates, implicit bias, stereotype threat, micro aggressions, bias in selection decisions and other mechanisms lead to fewer opportunities, smaller professional networks, lower levels of persistence, and poor outcomes.

Career advancement can be particularly stagnant for underrepresented groups without a strong network of mentors. Multicultural-focused career interventions and innovative mentoring practices are often needed to ensure trainees are directed to obtain the requisite knowledge and skills, as well as to understand the culture and nuances of a given discipline.

By developing the best talent in a rapidly growing and relatively untapped pool of women, low-income, and URM, we can bring diverse perspectives to help to generate the best science and accelerate innovative approaches to improve the nation’s health. This talk will provide some background and then together we will explore different views on the way forward.


Dr. Keith C. Norris is an internationally recognized clinician scientist and health policy leader who has been instrumental in shaping national health policy and clinical practice guidelines in the area of kidney disease. He is a leading health disparities researcher and a powerful advocate for increasing minority biomedical researchers (working from K-12 to junior faculty) and enhancing the research infrastructure of minority institutions. He was the founding PI for the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Translational Research Network (RTRN), the only National NIH network dedicated to reducing health disparities. He also served for 7 years as the president of the RCMI Program Directors Association.