SUNY Downstate Secures a Second $10M NIH Grant To Accelerate Health Equity Research Training

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Jul 18, 2023

The $10M renewal grant will increase the original 2017 research endowment to $20M, expanding the capacity for transformative health equity research

BROOKLYN, NY—SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University (Downstate) received a $10M John Lewis NIMHD Research Endowment Grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue the work of its Translational Program of Health Disparities Research Training (TRANSPORT) focused on recruiting and training health equity researchers from underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences. The $10M renewal raises the health disparities research endowment, established in 2017, to $20M—empowering SUNY Downstate to expand six research training programs and spearhead four new initiatives to unravel and confront the acute health disparities facing Brooklyn communities.

TRANSPORT II builds upon the success of TRANSPORT I, strengthening the existing research training programs, boosting engagement with community partners in research, and recruiting new research scientists from underrepresented groups. The renewal grant will also establish a new institute for health equity research as a centralized hub for the endowment programs’ administrative functions. The new institute will enhance Downstate’s capacity for educational programs in Brooklyn, facilitating collaboration with local and elected leaders in government, academia, and community-based organizations, ensuring that research efforts are aligned with local population needs.

Health disparities in underserved and minority communities remains a pervasive issue.  Expanding and broadening our research portfolio and the cadre of superbly trained researchers is a critical step to addressing health disparities in affected communities disproportionately burdened by a lack of access to cutting edge therapies and research initiatives,” said Downstate president Wayne J. Riley, M.D., and Principal Investigator (PI) on the grant. “The legendary Congressman John Lewis dedicated his life to fairness and equity, including the right to affordable healthcare. We are honored by this namesake grant honoring a great man that will enhance our collective efforts to provide access to groups underrepresented in scientific research and inform the most impactful ways to address health disparities in the future.”

“TRANSPORT II will increase the biomedical workforce necessary to address health inequities and disparities,” said Moro. O. Salifu, M.D., MBA, MPH, MACP, Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine, a PI on the grant. “We are grateful to the National Institutes of Health for their confidence in Downstate’s ability to enhance research skills and empower both emerging and seasoned researchers.”

In addition to training students and new academic researchers, TRANSPORT II will establish Community Science Cafés—a venue for promoting research literacy where community partners receive training on principles of community-based participatory research and grantsmanship. The Cafés will be led in partnership with the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, a nationally renowned organization dedicated to improving urban health and well-being named after the famous tennis player Arthur Ashe.

“Downstate earning the original TRANSPORT grant was a vote of confidence by NIMHD in the opportunities and promise of the program,” said Downstate senior vice president for the Office of Research, David Christini, Ph.D. “Getting renewed via TRANSPORT II, is an even greater achievement, as it is an endorsement of impressive accomplishments, a strong team and continued opportunity. NIMHD sees Downstate as an institution that merits its continued deep investment.”

“In five years, TRANSPORT II will train over 400 health equity scholars, 100 community partners, and recruit three new scientists,” said W. Marcus Lambert, Ph.D., MS, associate vice president for Research Strategy and Operations, and the Contact PI on the grant. “By investing in up-and-coming scientists and researchers, training healthcare professionals, and providing resources to communities, we will build sustainable frameworks for advancing health equity even beyond the scope of this grant.”

“This NIH grant will support a diverse range of scientific health research projects focused on understanding the specific needs, vulnerabilities, and determinants of health in underserved populations,” said Carla Boutin-Foster, M.D., MS, Department of Medicine professor, Diversity Education and Research Office associate dean, and a PI on the grant. “We are excited about training the next generation of health disparities researchers committed to making a difference where they live and serve.”

Grant PIs Drs. Riley, Salifu, Lambert, and Boutin-Foster, are joined by Marlene Camacho-Rivera, ScD, MS, MPH, Student Affairs Assistant Dean, and Community Health Sciences assistant professor, and Mohamed Boutjdir, Ph.D., professor and Director of Downstate’s Program to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE) as Co-Investigators for the grant. Pamela Straker, Ph.D., Ayesha Joshi, Ph.D. and Lakia Maxwell, MSCH, will provide additional research and administrative support to TRANSPORT II.

In 2017, Downstate received its first $10M endowment from the National Institute of Health—over five years—to implement TRANSPORT I, a multitiered diversity-focused research training program to support undergraduate students, pre-doctoral students, post-doctoral trainees, and junior faculty. TRANSPORT I funding supported over 100 students and faculty and reached over 700 community members through research symposia. The endowment helped to establish an infrastructure that contributed to several new grants, including the $3.3M HRSA Center of Excellence for Diversity and Equity in Medicine, a $2.6M NIH-funded Clinical Research Scholars Training (CREST) program, and a $1.5M HRSA Public Health Scholarship grant.

Downstate will host a launch event for TRANSPORT II in the fall of 2023 to announce the strategic plan and goals for the next five years. Please contact to join the listserv for future TRANSPORT II notices.

About the John Lewis NIMHD Research Endowment Revitalization Act of 2021

Named after the late civil rights pioneer and leader Congressman John Lewis, the NIMHD Research Endowment Revitalization Act of 2021 expanded the eligibility of this program to public/private institutions of higher education with current or former Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) or NIMHD Centers of Excellence awards. Its goals are to promote minority health and health disparities research capacity and infrastructure at institutions uniquely positioned to serve communities that experience health disparities, enhance the recruitment and retention of individuals from populations that are underrepresented in the scientific workforce, and promote training in the science of minority health and health disparities research leading to measurable and sustained improvements in health outcomes. The John Lewis NIMHD Research Endowment Program provides annual funding for up to five years. Awards are made to institutional endowments; thus, they do not directly fund research projects.


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About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is the borough’s only academic medical center for health education, research, and patient care. It is a 342-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of New York City and Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital at Downstate (UHD) is Downstate’s teaching hospital; it is backed by an outstanding medical school’s expertise and world-class academic medical center research facilities. Over 800 physicians, representing 53 specialties and subspecialties—many of them ranked as tops in their fields—comprise Downstate’s staff.

In addition to high-risk neonatal and infant services, pediatric nephrology, and dialysis (kidney diseases)—and offering the only kidney transplantation program in Brooklyn, among many other distinctive programs. Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, a College of Nursing, a School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative, including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @sunydownstate.