The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities
(NCMHD) promotes minority health and leads, coordinates, supports,
and assesses the NIH effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate
health disparities. The NCMHD works independently and in partnership
with the NIH Institutes and Centers, other Federal agencies, and
other non-federal groups and organizations to improve health and
address the disparities in health status. To achieve its mission,
- Conduct and support basic, clinical, social and behavioral
health disparities research;
- Promote infrastructure development and training;
- Foster emerging programs;
- Disseminate information; and
- Reach out to minority and other health disparities communities.
The NCMHD envisions an America in which all populations will have an equal opportunity to live long, healthy and productive lives.
Important Events in NCMHD History
1990—The Office of Minority Programs (OMP) was
established in the NIH Office of the Director, at the request of
then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Dr. Louis Sullivan. Dr. John Ruffin was appointed Associate Director
of Minority Programs to direct the OMP.
1991— The OMP convened an advisory
Fact-Finding Team (FFT) to conduct three regional conferences with
grassroots constituencies. The FFT issued a report with 13 recommendations
from the community that guided the initial efforts of the OMP.
1992—The Minority Health Initiative (MHI),
the centerpiece of the OMP agenda, was launched in response to
the FFT’s recommendations, and initially funded at $45 million.
This multi-year biomedical and behavioral research and research
training program is a partnership with the NIH Institutes and Centers.
The OMP co-funded various projects including: 1) interventions
to improve prenatal health and reduce infant mortality; 2) studies
of childhood and adolescent lead poisoning; HIV infection and AIDS;
3) alcohol and drug use studies; 4) research in adult populations
focused on cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular
diseases, mental disorders, asthma, visual impairments, and alcohol
abuse; and 5) training for faculty and for students at all stages
of the educational pipeline —from precollege and undergraduate
through graduate and postdoctoral levels.
1992—The OMP initiated a study with the National
Academy of Sciences designed to present an overview of NIH extramural
research training programs for minority students and to assess
the feasibility of conducting a trans-NIH assessment of these programs.
1993—Public Law 103-43, the Health Revitalization
Act of 1993, established the Office of Research on Minority Health
(ORMH) in the Office of the Director, NIH. Dr. John Ruffin was
appointed as the Associate Director for Research on Minority Health.
1994—The National Conference on Minority Health
Research and Research Training was held in Chicago.
1996—Conferences were held in Honolulu, Hawaii;
Miami, Florida; and Puerto Rico to inform ORMH constituencies of
the progress made, to solicit feedback on those achievements, and
to obtain information on the needs of minority populations.
1997—The Advisory Committee on Research on Minority
Health was established to provide advice to the Director, ORMH,
and to the Director, NIH, regarding research and research training
with respect to minority health issues.
1998—The first meeting of the Advisory Committee
on Minority Health was held.
2000—The ORMH celebrated its 10th anniversary
with a conference entitled Closing the Minority Health Gap:
10 Years of Progress and Challenge in Eliminating Health Disparities
2000—The National Center on Minority Health and
Health Disparities (NCMHD) was established by the passage of the
Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act
of 2000, Public Law 106-525, which was signed by the President
of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, on November 22,
2000. The bill was introduced into the Congress by Senator Edward
Kennedy of Massachusetts.
2001—Dr. John Ruffin was sworn in as the first
director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
2001—Programs mandated by Congress were implemented
to expand the infrastructure of Institutions committed to health
disparities research and to encourage the recruitment and retention
of highly qualified minority and other scientists in the fields
of biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and health services research:
(1) the Endowment Program, (2) the Loan Repayment
Program for Health Disparities Research, and (3) the Extramural
Clinical Research Loan Repayment Program for Individuals from Disadvantaged
2002—The Congressionally mandated program, Centers
of Excellence program was launched, referred to as Project
EXPORT –Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research
on Health Disparities and Training.
2002—The first meeting of the National Advisory
Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NACMHD) was
2002—The NCMHD assumed responsibility for the
Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions Program (RIMI),
which was established by its predecessor ORMH, in partnership with
the National Center for Research Resources.
2003—The first NIH Strategic Research Plan
and Budget to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities was
2005—The NCMHD assumed responsibility for the
Minority International Research Training Program (MIRT) which was
established by its predecessor ORMH in partnership with Fogarty
International Center (FIC). The program was renamed to be more
consistent with the mission of the NCMHD to the Minority Health
and Health Disparities International Research Training Program
2005—The NCMHD Community Based Participatory
Research (CBPR) program was established. This program supports
community-based participatory research intervention studies to
reduce health disparities caused by diseases or conditions affecting
minority and other health disparity communities. NCMHD is currently
funding 25 CBPR three-year planning grants.
2005—The National Research Council of the National
Academies released the report Assessment of NIH Minority Research
and Training Programs: Phase 3. The report was the culmination
of a series of assessments and analyses of the NIH minority research
and training programs initiated by the ORMH, the predecessor to
the NCMHD. This report examined the effectiveness of the programs
and provided recommendations for improvement.
2006—The Institute of Medicine of the National
Academies issued the report Examining the Health Disparities
Research Plan of the National Institutes of Health: Unfinished
Business. The NCMHD requested this report to assess the adequacy
of the NIH Health Disparities Strategic Plan in achieving the goals
and objectives; to evaluate the adequacy of coordination among
the NIH Institutes and Centers in developing the strategic plan;
and to obtain recommendations to help NIH achieve the objectives
of the strategic plan.
2007—The NCMHD Centers of Excellence in Partnerships
for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training
(Project EXPORT), was re-competed for the first time. The program
was also renamed the NCMHD Centers of Excellence program.
2008— NCMHD hosted the first NIH Science of Eliminating
Health Disparities summit on December 16-18, 2008. The summit attracted
more than 4,000 participants including scientists, health care
practitioners, and policy makers, community leaders, and students
who work or have an interest in eliminating health disparities.
Acclaimed poet Maya Angelou spoke at the opening ceremony.
2008—NIH Director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni approved
an Intramural Research Program (IRP) for the NCMHD. Acting NIH
Director, Dr. Raynard Kington announced the creation of the NCMHD
IRP at the NIH Science of Eliminating Health Disparities summit.
2009—NCMHD launched its Health Disparities Research
on Minority and Underserved Populations program. This Research
Project Grant (R01), funds original and innovative research addressing
elements that support the advancement of research to eliminate
2009—NCMHD launched the NIH Health Disparities
Seminar Series in July 2009. The monthly lecture series brings
national and international health disparities experts including
NIH and federal agency partners to the NIH to share information
about advances, gaps, and current issues related to health disparities
2009—The NCMHD Disparities Research and Education
Advancing our Mission (DREAM) program was launched as a component
of the NCMHD Intramural Research Program.
2009—The Research Infrastructure in Minority
Institutions Program (RIMI) was renamed the Building Research Infrastructure
and Capacity (BRIC) program, to be more consistent with the mission
2009—NCMHD partnered with the NIH Office of Intramural
Research to sponsor the 2009 NIH J. Edward Rall Cultural Lecture
as part of the NIH Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series, featuring Dr.
NCMHD Legislative History
1993—P.L. 103-43, the Health Revitalization
Act of 1993, established the Office of Research on Minority Health
in the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health.
2000—P.L. 106-525, Minority Health and Health
Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000, established the
National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. It also
called for the development of a NIH comprehensive strategic research
plan and budget for health disparities research. It authorizes
the NCMHD Director and the Director of the Agency for Health care
Research Quality (AHRQ) to define health disparity populations.
The law also requires the NCMHD to maintain communications with
all Public Health Service agencies and other Departments of the
Federal government to disseminate health disparities research information.
John Ruffin, Ph.D., NCMHD Director
Dr. John Ruffin is the Director of the National Center on Minority
Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD). He oversees the NCMHD budget
of approximately $200 million. In addition, he provides leadership
for the minority health and health disparities research activities
of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which constitutes an
annual budget of approximately $2.6 billion.
He is a well-respected leader and visionary in the field of minority
health and health disparities. As an academician and a scientist,
he has devoted his professional career to improving the health
status of racial and ethnic minorities and other medically underserved
populations in the United States. He has an impressive track record
of developing and supporting programs to increase the cadre of
minority scientists, physicians, and other health professionals,
as well as attract a diverse group of researchers to the health
His success has been due in large part to his ability to motivate
others and gain the support of key individuals and organizations,
as well as to his expertise in strategic planning, administration,
and the development of numerous collaborative partnerships. For
almost 20 years, he has led the transformation of the NIH minority
health and health disparities research agenda from a programmatic
concept to an institutional reality. He has served as the Associate
Director for Minority Programs, Office of Minority Programs; and
the Associate Director for Research on Minority Health, Office
of Research on Minority Health.
As the NIH federal official for minority health disparities research,
through multi-faceted collaborations, he has planned and brought
to fruition the largest biomedical research program in the nation
to promote minority health and other health disparities research
and training. In his quest to eliminate health disparities,
the hallmark of his approach is to foster and expand strategic
partnerships in alliance with the NIH Institutes and Centers, various
Federal and state agencies, community organizations, academic institutions,
private sector leaders, and international governments and non-governmental
organizations. Under his leadership, the NIH convened its first
summit on health disparities, “The NIH Science of Eliminating
Health Disparities Summit” in December 2008. The summit
showcased the work, progress, and challenges of the NIH Institutes
and Centers and many of their federal and non-federal government
partners involved in minority health and health disparities research
around the theme of Integrating Science, Practice, and Policy.
The summit attracted more than 4000 individuals from around the
world representing various disciplines and sectors.
Dr. Ruffin is committed to conceptualizing, developing and implementing
innovative programs that create new learning opportunities and
exposure for individuals, communities, and academic institutions
interested in eliminating health disparities. His efforts have
impacted local, regional, national and international communities.
He has established and continues to expand a growing portfolio
of research, training, and capacity building programs to train
health professionals and scientists from health disparity populations;
conduct cutting-edge health disparities research; build the capacity
at academic institutions and within the community to support a
promising health disparities research enterprise.
His life-long commitment to academic excellence, improving minority
health and promoting training and health disparities research,
has earned him distinguished national awards. Dr. Ruffin has received
an honorary doctor of science degree from Spelman College, Tuskegee
University, the University of Massachusetts in Boston, North Carolina
State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical
College. He has been recognized by various professional, non-profit,
and advocacy organizations including: the National Medical Association,
the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans
in Science; the Association of American Indian Physicians, the
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; the Society
of Black Academic Surgeons; and the National Science Foundation.
The John Ruffin Scholarship Program is an honor symbolic of his
legacy for academic excellence bestowed by the Duke University
Talent Identification Program. He has also received the Martin
Luther King Jr., Legacy Award for National Service, the Samuel
L. Kountz Award for his significant contribution to increasing
minority access to organ and tissue transplantation; the NIH Director’s
Award; the National Hispanic Leadership Award; Beta Beta Beta Biological
Honor Society Award; the Department of Health and Human Services’ Special
Recognition Award; and the U.S. Presidential Merit Award.
Dr. Ruffin received a B.S. in Biology from Dillard University,
a M.S. in Biology from Atlanta University, a Ph.D. in Systematic
and Developmental Biology from Kansas State University, and completed
post-doctoral studies in biology at Harvard University.
Three official organizational components comprise NCMHD:
The Office of the Director (OD)
The Office of the Director provides overall leadership and direction
to the programs, plans, and activities of the NCMHD. It determines
the goals and priorities of the Center, serves as the focal point
for the coordination of the NIH minority health and health disparities
research programs as authorized, and develops and directs new and
special scientific programs of the Center. The OD leads the Center's
coordination of programs and strategic partnerships with the NIH
Institutes and Centers, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders;
provides management and administrative services to the Center;
oversees the Center's ethics program; and plans and directs the
Center's communications activities, including developing and disseminating
information on minority health and health disparities research.
Division of Extramural Activities and Scientific Programs
This division serves as the focal point for planning,
directing, implementing, and managing the NCMHD extramural research
programs. The DEASP provides leadership for the NCMHD's legislatively
mandated extramural research programs and other NCMHD research,
research training, research capacity building, career development,
and community outreach programs. It also directs the scientific
peer review and grants management activities for all NCMHD programs
ensuring that all awards are made in accordance with applicable
policies, statutes and regulations.
Division of Scientific Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis
This division provides leadership for scientific strategic planning,
evaluation, knowledge management, reporting, legislative affairs,
and policy activities relative to the mission of NCMHD. The DSSPPA
serves as the focal point for coordinating reports including the
development of the legislatively mandated trans-NIH Health Disparities
Strategic Plan, and monitoring and assessment of the trans-NIH
minority health/health disparities research programs. It also advises
the NCMHD staff on policy matters that support program development,
science policy formulation, and overall program direction and decision-making
NCMHD Leading Programs:
The Centers of Excellence Program (COE) is congressionally
mandated by Public Law 106-525. The program was established to develop
novel programs in the U.S. that would make significant advances and
contributions to easing the health burden in underserved populations
and in reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities in
several priority diseases and conditions. This strategy helps to
increase the pool of investigators from health disparity populations
through research training and faculty development. In addition, the
collaborations help disseminate health information to underserved
populations and increase the participation of health disparity populations
in clinical trials. The program has funded studies on numerous diseases/conditions
including breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers; human papillomavirus,
HIV, and cardiovascular disease.
The Research Endowment Program is
congressionally mandated by Public Law 106-525. The program was established
to provide endowments to eligible academic institutions to support
minority health and health disparities research. The educational
institutions must use interest from the grants to a) build the capacity
for research or research training which may include renovating facilities,
improving technology or updated equipment; b) recruit and develop
a diverse faculty, as well as create courses concerning health disparities
research methodology; and c) advance recruitment and training of
students from underrepresented and socio-economically disadvantaged
populations who plan to pursue scientific careers.
The Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
NCMHD offers two types of loan repayment programs. The Health Disparities
Research Loan Repayment Program is mandated by the Congress to increase
the pool of extramural researchers who conduct health disparities
research. The Extramural Clinical Research Loan Repayment Program
extends to health professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds who
engage in clinical research. Eligible candidates are health professionals
with post doctoral degrees who are not federally employed and interested in conducting
basic, clinical, behavioral, social sciences or health services research addressing
The Community Based Participatory Research Program (CBPR) is
designed to promote collaborative research between scientific researchers and
members of their community through the joint design and implementation of intervention
research projects targeting health disparities in underserved populations including
racial and ethnic minorities, rural populations, and individuals of low socio-economic
The ultimate goal is to foster sustainable efforts at the community level that
will accelerate the translation of research advances to health disparity populations
and eliminate health disparities. The CBPR Initiative has three phases. It starts
with a three year planning grant, followed by a competitive five year intervention
grant and concludes with a competitive three year information dissemination grant.
This is a long term commitment by the NCMHD with potential funding for up to
eleven years in individual CBPR projects.
The Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research
Training Program (MHIRT) supports young scientists conducting
scientific research abroad. It offers short-term international training opportunities
in health disparities research for undergraduate and graduate students in the
health professions who are from health disparity populations. Grantees work with
international health investigators in countries around the world including Mexico,
Uganda, Ghana, Australia, Peru, Spain and South Africa.
The Building Research Infrastructure and Capacity (BRIC) Program supports
the development of sustainable research programs at non-research intensive institutions
of higher education. The primary goal is to build, strengthen, and/or enhance
the research infrastructure and research training capacity of non-research intensive
The Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology
Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Program is a highly competitive federal program
mandated by the Congress as a part of the Small Business Development Act. Each
year designated federal departments and agencies award a reserved portion of
their research and development funds to small businesses and to partnerships
between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions to bring innovative
technologies to market. The NCMHD SBIR/STTR Programs give high priority to research
activities designed to empower health disparity communities to achieve health
equity through health education, disease prevention, and community-based, problem
The Health Disparities Research on Minority and Underserved Populations
Program, a NIH Research Project Grant (R01) program, supports original
and innovative research addressing elements that eliminate health disparities. It
also supports the study of diseases/conditions that contribute to poor health
outcomes or disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority populations,
rural and urban poor, and other health disparity populations.
Disparities Research and Education Advancing Mission (DREAM)
Career Transition Award is the NCMHD’s first intramural
program. It facilitates the transition of early stage investigators
involved in health disparities research from the mentored stage of
career development to become independent investigators. DREAM grants
provide an opportunity for investigators to develop solid research
skills during the initial period of up to two years of study and
research within the NIH Intramural Research Programs located on the
NIH campus. The award may also include a follow-on period of
up to three years of salary and mentored research support at the
candidate’s current institution or organization or an academic
or research grantee institution of the candidate's choice. This
period of extramural support will facilitate the transition to independence
as a researcher in health disparities research.
This page was last reviewed on
March 23, 2010