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The NIH Almanac

National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD)

Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Programs | Photo Gallery

Mission

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) leads scientific research to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities. To achieve its mission, the NIMHD:

  • Plans, reviews, coordinates, and evaluates all minority health and health disparities research and activities of the NIH;
  • Conducts and supports research on health disparities;
  • Promotes and supports the training of a diverse research workforce;
  • Translates and disseminates research information; and
  • Fosters innovative collaborations and partnerships.

Vision

The NIMHD envisions an America in which all populations will have an equal opportunity to live long, healthy and productive lives.

Important Events in NIMHD 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; 3) HIV infection and AIDS; 4) alcohol and drug use studies; 5) research in adult populations focused on cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders, asthma, visual impairments, and alcohol abuse; and 6) 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 Backgrounds.

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 convened.

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 issued.

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 (MHIRT).

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.

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, 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 health disparities.

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 research.

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 of NCMHD.

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. Maya Angelou.

2009—NCMHD, in partnership with the HHS Office of Minority Health and the U.S. Department of Education formalized the Federal Collaboration on Health Disparities Research (FCHDR) comprised of 14 federal executive departments. FCHDR promotes enhanced coordination of efforts to improve the health of health disparity populations. NCMHD co-leads FCHDR.

2010—NCMHD was re-designated to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) with the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In addition, the Research Endowment program was expanded to include NIMHD Centers of Excellence as eligible institutions. 

2010—NIMHD launched a two-week intensive Translational Health Disparities Course: Integrating Principles of Science, Practice, and Policy in Health Disparities Research.

2010—NIMHD launched a Faith-based Initiative on Health Disparities and a Social Determinants of Health Initiative.

2011—NIMHD established the Scientific Education Initiative, which supports educational, mentoring, and career development programs for individuals from health disparity populations that are underrepresented in the research sciences.

2011—NIMHD launched the Resource-Related Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Initiative to support minority health and health disparities research activities using a cooperative agreement which requires substantial federal scientific or programmatic involvement.

2011—NIMHD appointed William G. Coleman, Jr., Ph.D., as the NIMHD's first permanent scientific director and the first African-American scientific director in the history of the NIH Intramural Research Program.

2011—NIMHD assumed responsibility for the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) program formerly administered by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).

2012—NIMHD organized the first-ever “NIH Minority Health Promotion Day” on April 19, 2012 in honor of National Minority Health Month working with the other NIH ICs and other federal agencies. 

2012—NIMHD established its Transdisciplinary Collaborative Centers for Health Disparities Research Program to support transdisciplinary coalitions of academic institutions, community organizations, service providers and systems, government agencies, and other stakeholders focused on select topics related to health disparities.

2012—NIMHD hosted the 2012 Science of Eliminating Health Disparities Summit from December 17-19, 2012, a partnership with the NIH Institutes and Centers, the HHS agencies, and 14 of the 15 federal executive departments. Rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the summit attracted thousands of participants. Major highlights included a portrait unveiling for former Congressman Louis Stokes and dedication of the Summit to the late Senator Arlen Specter.

2013—NIMHD held the third Translational Health Disparities Course: Integrating Principles of Science, Practice, and Policy in Health Disparities Research. NIMHD selected 90 scholars from 450 applications—the largest class and number of applications to date. View Image.

2013—NIMHD launched The Health Disparities Pulse, a newsletter for the health disparities community covering a wide array of topics, issues, and information pertaining to minority health and health disparities research and activities.

NIMHD 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 and 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.

2010—On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) passed and re-designated the NCMHD to an Institute, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The law gave the NIMHD authority to plan, review, coordinate, and evaluate the minority health and health disparities research and activities conducted and supported by the NIH Institutes and Centers. In addition, it transferred all of the responsibilities of the NCMHD to the NIMHD and expanded the eligibility criteria for the Research Endowment program to include institutions with an active NIMHD Center of Excellence grant.

Biographical Sketch
John Ruffin, Ph.D., NIMHD Director

Dr. John Ruffin is the Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). He oversees the NIMHD budget of approximately $276 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 $2.8 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 disparities field.

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 the past 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. Under his leadership the NIH Office of Minority Programs was established to address the health of minorities around the country. That Office later transitioned to the Office of Research on Minority Health, which later became the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities in 2000, and in March 2010 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act re-designated it the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

As the NIH federal official for minority health disparities research, through multi-faceted collaborations, Dr. Ruffin 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, 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 4,000 individuals from around the world representing various disciplines and sectors. Four years later, the 2012 Science of Eliminating Health Disparities Summit was organized on a much larger scale, involving participation from 14 of the 15 federal executive departments including NIH and all of the HHS. This expansion of the summit was a direct result of Dr. Ruffin’s vision to increase cross-sector involvement in the fight to eliminate health disparities.

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, and 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, promoting training and health disparities research has earned him distinguished national awards. Dr. Ruffin has received several honorary doctor of science degrees from institutions such as Spelman College, Tuskegee University, the University of Massachusetts in Boston, North Carolina State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Tulane University, Dillard University, and Medgar Evers 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 Cura Personalis Award from Georgetown University Medical Center; 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, an 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.

Programs

Four official organizational components comprise NIMHD:

The Office of the Director (OD)

The Office of the Director (OD) determines and provides leadership to the Institute’s programs, plans, and policies. It provides leadership for the NIH minority health and health disparities research and activities including the implementation of the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act (P.L. 106-525) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) and other relevant public laws as they relate to the NIMHD mission. The NIMHD OD directs an integrated system of coordination for the NIH health disparities research program and the Institute’s development and coordination of minority health and health disparities research programs, activities, and strategic partnerships with the NIH Institutes and Centers; NIH Office of the Director; Federal agencies; state, local, tribal, and regional public health agencies; and private entities. The NIMHD OD’s four organizational components include the Office of Administrative Management, the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, the Office of Extramural Research Administration, and the Office of Strategic Planning, Legislation, and Science Policy. The NIMHD OD provides leadership for the NIH health disparities strategic plan and budget and leads the management, communications, legislation, strategic planning, science policy, and ethics activities for the Institute. It also provides leadership for developing and revising the national definition for health disparity population in consultation with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Division of Scientific Programs (DSP)

The Division of Scientific Programs (DSP) serves as the focal point for planning, directing, implementing, and managing the Institute’s extramural research programs, including its legislatively mandated extramural research programs and other research, research training, research capacity building, career development, and community-based participatory research initiatives. The organizational components of this division include the Office of Research Training and Capacity Building and the Office of Research Innovation and Program Coordination. DSP manages a diverse portfolio of special projects with respect to minority health conditions and other populations with health disparities, determines program priorities, and recommends funding strategies to achieve program goals.

Division of Data Management and Scientific Reporting (DDMSR)

The Division of Data Management and Scientific Reporting (DDMSR) provides leadership for knowledge management and scientific reporting. It maintains a Health Disparities Information (HDI) database to facilitate the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data, education, dissemination, and communication of information to various audiences in collaboration with other organizational components of the Institute. This division collaborates with the Office of Strategic Planning, Legislation, and Science Policy to analyze and synthesize data on minority health and health disparities research conducted and supported by the Institutes and Centers. It also coordinates reporting requests on the Institute and NIH activities on minority health and health disparities research; provides epidemiological and statistical expertise for the Institute on planning, designing, and implementing research studies and to support research programs; coordinates data collection activities and reporting on minority health and health disparities including the Institute’s implementation of relevant policies, regulations, and laws; and provides advice to the Institute senior management and program officials on data collection standards and guidelines. The DDMSR coordinates Institute activities under the Privacy Act and administers the Institute's Freedom of Information Act activities.

Division of Intramural Research (DIR)

This Division of Intramural Research (DIR) provides leadership for the Institute’s intramural research program to prevent, diagnose, treat, and understand disease and conditions that disproportionately affect health disparity populations. It plans, develops, and conducts innovative trans-disciplinary research focusing on the linkage between biological and non-biological determinants of health in health disparity populations to include basic, behavioral, social sciences, and clinical research. This division develops, coordinates, and implements training and career development programs in minority health and health disparities research. It collaborates with and coordinates intramural research on minority health and health disparities conducted by the Institutes and Centers, integrates new research into the Institute’s program structure, and provides advice to the Institute Director and staff on matters of scientific interest to the Institute.

NIMHD 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 updating 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)
NIMHD 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 postdoctoral degrees who are not federally employed and interested in conducting basic, clinical, behavioral, social sciences, or health services research addressing health disparities.

The Community Based Participatory Research Program (CBPR) is designed to promote collaborative research between scientific researchers and members of the 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 status.

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 NIMHD with potential funding for up to 11 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 Program (BRIC) 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 institutions.

The Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Program (SBIR/STTR) 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 NIMHD 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 driven research.

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.  The program consists of two initiatives focused on a) basic and applied research; and b) social, behavioral, health services, and policy research. 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.

The Disparities Research and Education Advancing Mission Career Transition Award (DREAM) is the NIMHD'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.

The Science Education Initiative supports educational, mentoring, and career development programs for individuals from health disparity populations that are underrepresented in the research sciences. The program is geared towards ensuring that minority and health disparity populations are continuously exposed to and encouraged to explore careers in biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences ranging from kindergarten through early-stage investigators.

The Resource-Related Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Initiative supports minority health and health disparities research activities using a cooperative agreement which requires substantial federal scientific or programmatic involvement. The initiative focuses on bioethics research, global health, data infrastructure, information dissemination, and research on healthcare for rural populations.

The Research Centers in Minority Institutions Program (RCMI) enhances the research capacity and infrastructure at minority institutions that offer doctorates in the health professions or health sciences by expanding human and physical resources for conducting basic, clinical, and translational research.

The Transdisciplinary Collaborative Centers for Health Disparities Research Program establishes specialized centers that support transdisciplinary coalitions focused on priority areas in minority health and health disparities research, such as health policy, the social determinants of health, and men’s health. Coalitions bring together academic institutions, community organizations, service providers and systems, government agencies, and other stakeholders. The program supports targeted research, implementation, and dissemination activities that transcend customary approaches and “silo” organizational structures to address critical questions at multiple levels.

This page last reviewed on April 2, 2014

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