As an assistant professor in the Divisions of Hematology and Geriatric Medicine, and a board-certified Geriatric-Hematologist, Dr. Shakira J. Grant, MBBS, is no stranger to success, but she has had to overcome many challenges along the way. Now, selected for the 2022 Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE) cohort, she hopes this opportunity will further springboard her research and encourage others to step out of their own comfort zones.
PRIDE, a yearlong program sponsored by the National Hearth Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), gives early-stage investigators the opportunity to network with other PRIDE scholars, learn best practices for conducting research and write grants. Much of Dr. Grant’s training will be centered around Functional and Translational Genomics of Blood Disorders (FTG).
“The reason that this is really important to the work I do in social disparities and ageing is really because it allows me to take a deeper dive in examining the multilevel drivers of health disparities in this population,” Dr. Shakira J. Grant, MBBS, said. “Not only from what we learn from patients and their caregivers about how cancer, in particular myeloma, affects them, but now I can also examine biological responses to social stressors.”
PRIDE’s goal is to increase diversity of the biomedical research workforce. As a first-generation university graduate and physician, an immigrant who overcame early social vulnerability while in her home country of Barbados and a Black woman in academic medicine, Dr. Grant has been breaking down barriers all her life.
“It is the intersectionality of all of those identities that informs the unique perspective I bring to this space I am driving into,” Dr. Grant said. “This is my why and the purpose behind doing this work that I love and am so passionate about. I want to bring visibility and develop strategies to best support this group of older adults, patients and their informal caregivers, who face other social stressors and are often discounted.”
Just like any other investigator who is building their research program, Dr. Grant is always looking for ways to get grant funding to support the work she is passionate about. Scholars of the PRIDE program will have the opportunity to develop an application for a Small Research Project (SRP) grant. She hopes her success will inspire others who come from diverse backgrounds like herself.
“Now, there is a lot more emphasis on the importance of diversity not only among research participants but among researchers,” Dr. Grant said. “Despite these efforts, it is important for those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds to know that in most settings in academic medicine, you will always be a part of a group considered to be underrepresented. It is what you do with your time and effort once you are in this space. The way I see it, we have two choices: stand up and be counted or sit down and be discounted, but I chose the former. I identified my purpose, my why, for what I do and let that be my compass of sorts. I am not afraid to rise to the challenge by raising my hand, taking chances, and putting my ideas out there through writing manuscripts and research proposals. Most of all, I view failure as a part of the path to success, and as I was recently told by my professional coach Dr. Kemi Doll, ‘When you are creating the path, the only way forward is to lay the next stone.’ So, that is exactly what I’m doing in this space.”