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Refunded with $1.3 Million, REIDS Program for Diverse Scholars Continues Fight Against HIV/AIDS

December 11, 2015
by Jennifer K

After Donna Cole completed her doctorate in sociology from Northeastern University in 2005, she thought about some of the HIV/AIDS fieldwork she’d done and realized what really sparked her interest was community-based research on the disease.

“I was interested in being in the community, talking with people about how they were managing their HIV infection diagnoses,” she said.

That inspired Cole, Ph.D., M.P.H., to apply for a REIDS (Research Education Institute for Diverse Scholars) fellowship. She was accepted and was a REIDS scholar from 2013 to 2015. Yale’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) runs the program.

Created five years ago, REIDS was recently refunded for another 5 years with a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Recruitment for summer 2016 fellowships has begun.

Since its inception, 17 scholars have completed the REIDS program. Each has done a pilot project, which takes one to two years. “It’s very intense,” said Barbara Guthrie, Ph.D., R.N., REIDS co-director and an emeritus professor at the Yale School of Nursing. “They have to do a lot of work in a compressed time.”

The program is intended to meet the challenges and barriers to advancement experienced by diverse researchers who are underrepresented in the field of HIV research. It provides opportunities for fellows to develop the skills needed to conduct community-based implementation science research and advance HIV-inequalities research. The program is aimed at junior faculty—assistant professors or postdoctoral fellows—who are seeking educational support and mentoring.

“This program provides diverse scholars the additional support, infrastructure and mentoring that facilitates their academic and professional success,” said Trace Kershaw, Ph.D., associate professor at the School of Public Health and co-director of REIDS. “Yale and academia need more programs like REIDS which prioritize diversifying the research community, which results in a better academic environment and better science.”

The REIDS program four major components are:

  • A four-week summer institute for two consecutive summers;
  • Online monthly meetings on grant writing and professional development;
  • Intense mentoring from CIRA-affiliated researchers;
  • A $20,000 grant to conduct a pilot study in community-based implementation science by REIDS mentors.

Some of the pilot projects REIDS scholars have done include: Engagement and Retention of Care: Positive Sistahs’ Engagement for Life; Sexual Health Promotion Among African American Adolescents in Rural North Carolina; and Dimelo (which means “tell about me”): How Does Culture Influence Your Life?

REIDS addresses “a real gap,” said Guthrie. A disproportionate number of HIV/AIDS patients are people of color, so it is helpful when the researchers interacting with them are also people of color, Guthrie said. “They ask different questions. They go out and talk with people.”

Guthrie cited another REIDS scholar’s research project, titled “Feasibility of a Church-Based HIV Test and Treatment Model for African Americans.” The researcher went into churches in Philadelphia and talked with congregants and pastors. “She raised questions that came from the people. It’s real community-based research,” Guthrie said.

While Cole has completed her REIDS training, she’s still doing work on her pilot project She is studying stigma and how that shapes patients’ decisions to get the medical care they need. Cole, who is currently a lecturer at Central Connecticut State University and a visiting assistant professor at Simmons College, is now in the process of getting her research published. Similarly, other REIDS graduates have successfully published in top-tier journals, obtained federal funding and been hired and promoted at prestigious universities.

“What sets the REIDS program apart is its commitment to increasing the diversity of HIV/AIDS researchers,” Cole said. “It’s definitely helping.”

To learn more about REIDS, visit http://cira.yale.edu/training/reids/research-education-institute-diverse-scholars-reids

Submitted by Denise Meyer on December 11, 2015