Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative
The VA Office of Research and Development (ORD) is uniquely positioned to support biomedical and health system research that benefits Veterans and others. It has a national reach that extends across more than 100 research offices located throughout the U.S. ORD's mission is to facilitate scientific discovery that can improve Veterans' health and well-being. It does so by funding targeted research and partnering with other federal agencies and academic institutions to solve real-world problems that confront Veterans and others.
One important facet of this charge is to address the specific needs that affect Veterans from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. One way to accomplish this is to create opportunities for early career VA investigators from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. ORD leadership believes that scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual enterprise to address complex health-related problems faced by Veterans.
In 2021, ORD chartered an employee-led work group to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within its sphere of influence. The mission of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work Group (DEI Work Group) is to develop a diverse pipeline of VA investigators from underrepresented backgrounds in medical science; stimulate research on minority health and health disparities; promote inclusion within ORD and across the enterprise; and promote equity in all scientific activities.
DEI Work Group mission statement
The ORD DEI Work Group is committed to leveraging and fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion to deliver outstanding public services to our nation's Veterans, and to their families and beneficiaries.
Purpose and scope
The DEI Work Group will serve as an ORD forum for identifying, addressing, implementing, and evaluating policies and practices that support a diverse, inclusive, and equitable: workforce, workplace, and research framework. The DEI Work Group provides independent recommendations to ORD leadership on initiatives related to:
- Developing a diverse scientific workforce through training and funding opportunities.
- Stimulating research focused on minority health and reducing health disparities.
- Promoting a culture of inclusion in ORD workplace that will enhance the quality of our work and increase its relevance to the Veterans, the VA scientific research and the clinical communities we serve.
- Promoting equity in scientific activities including the management of scientific review stakeholders so that they are an accurate reflection of the VA communities that we serve.
Principal focus areas
- Scientific workforce (data collection and analysis, recruitment, retention, training, and funding)
- Minority health & health disparities research (funding opportunities)
- ORD workforce (data collection and analysis, recruitment, retention, training)
- Inclusion in ORD and in a health diversity research framework ( values, training, research opportunities, education opportunities and initiatives)
- Equity in the research enterprise
- Cultural competence
(Note: These focus areas are subject to change over time based on available data, ORD employee feedback, and DEIWG prioritization.)
DEI Work Group organizational structure
- Jane Battles, Ph.D.
- Tanya N. Byfield
- Liza Catucci, MPH, B.A.
- Alex Chiu, Ph.D.
- Patricia Dorn, Ph.D.
- Angela Foster
- Carol B. Fowler, Ph.D.
- Shirley Groer, Ph.D.
- Crystal Henderson, Ph.D.
- Annette Jackson
- Ying-Yee Kong, Ph.D.
- Lina Kubli, Ph.D.
- Vetisha McClair, Ph.D.
- Kristina Nord, MSW
- Robert O’Brien, Ph.D.
- Jenish Patel, Ph.D.
- Rachel Ramoni, DMD, ScD
- Carol Roberts, MPA
- Tiffin Ross-Shepard, B.S., M.S.
- Miriam Smyth, Ph.D.
- Wendy Tenhula, Ph.D.
- Chinagozi Ugwu, MPH
- Christina Williams, Ph.D., MPH
- Carole Woodle, Ph.D.
Recent accomplishments (as of September 2022)
- Launched a Pilot Summer Research Program at 21 VA Medical centers in 2022. This program provided Research opportunities to over 100 students in year 1, which included 74 college student, 8 graduate students, 11 high school students, and 20 medical & Allied health students.
- DEI training and professional development opportunities for VA field researchers:
- Provided funds for DEI training to 4 VA field research offices; and
- Provided funding for professional development training to 7 underrepresented VA field researchers.
- Developed “ORD Research Supplements to Promote Collaborations to Enhance Diversity in VA Research” funding opportunity to engage and recruit researchers from underrepresented groups by leveraging existing ORD-funded research while establishing strong collaborative partnerships between VA Merit Award investigators and investigators at non-VA institutions, including, but not limited to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
- Developed “ORD Research Supplements to Promote Diversity” funding opportunity that encourage individuals from backgrounds underrepresented in health science to become VA investigators and to receive mentorship from established VA investigators. 21mentees were funded as of the summer 2022.
- Held the second-annual grant-writing workshop for 33 investigators from underrepresented groups who are applying for VA Merit and Career Development awards. 11 out of 16 of the 2021 attendees received funding after attending the workshop.
- Solicited research proposals on health disparities and conditions that impact underserved Veterans, including but not limited to racial and ethnic minority Veterans, Veterans with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ Veterans.
- Created an Advisory subcommittee on DEI to the National Research Advisory Council. The DEI Advisory subcommittee has assisted the Million Veteran Program (MVP) in its recruitment and advertisement campaign for increased participation by women Veterans. The subcommittee will assist other national research efforts to increase DEI in research.
Future aims and goals (as of September 2022)
Continue to invest in programs managed by the DEI Work Group. These programs include:
- Supporting the 3rd Annual Early Career Workshop for assisting individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to improve their VA Career Development Award
- Completing review for the Fall 2022 diversity supplement applications, with the anticipation of funding up to 10 additional supplements.
- Supporting the 21 diversity supplements that were funded in FY 2021 and FY 2022 and soliciting a call for new supplement applications in 2023, with the anticipation of funding up to 10 additional supplements.
- Continuing and expanding the Summer Research Program.
- Developing a supplement to increase recruitment of underrepresented Veteran populations in VA minority health and health disparities research.
- Helping ORD Internal Professional Development to shape and maintain a culture within ORD that is supportive and engaging and that fosters an open environment for professional development for all employees. Offer funding for educational trainings for VAMCs, designed to raise awareness of perceptual, institutional, and other barriers that influence the workplace culture.
- Supporting the building of future leaders from under-represented groups in the VA research field.
To learn about VA's overall commitment to diversity and equity in the workforce, visit the VA Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion (ORMDI) webpage.