NIH Distinguished Scholars Program

As part of an effort to enhance diversity in the scientific workplace, NIH launched the Distinguished Scholars Program (DSP), which facilitates the hiring and career progression of tenure-track investigators who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the biomedical-research workforce.

group photo--see caption


NIH Distinguished Scholars Program participants gathered for its inaugural meeting in the fall. Front row (from left): DSP scholars Joel Vega-Rodriguez, Joana Vidigal, Eric Calvo, Sadhana Jackson, Hugo Tejeda, and Paule Joseph; and Director of Research Workforce Development Roland Owens. Back row (from left): DSP scholar Freddy Escorcia; Deputy Director for Intramural Research Michael Gottesman, senior investigators and mentors Julie Segre, Veronica Alvarez, and John Tisdale; NIH Director Francis Collins; Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity Hannah Valantine; Senior Advisor for Faculty Development Carl Hashimoto; and DSP scholars Nida Sen, Faustine Williams, Catherine Cukras, and Sherine El-Toukhy (missing DSP scholars: Jennifer Jones and Joseph Rodriguez).

The DSP aims to reduce the barriers to the recruitment and success of principal investigators from underrepresented groups in biomedical research (African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and others; people with disabilities; individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds; and women).

To build a more diverse and inclusive intramural research program, the DSP recruits a cohort of up to 15 tenure-track investigators each year. (This year there were some assistant clinical investigators, too.) Selection for the program is competitive and recognizes outstanding accomplishments both in scientific research and in promoting diversity and inclusion. The scholars participate as a cohort in activities designed to foster a sense of belonging and to promote research and career success. They receive mentorship from highly experienced NIH senior investigators; professional leadership training and access to workshops on a variety of management skills and tactics; and informal networking opportunities with NIH leadership such as the NIH director, institute and center (IC) directors, and scientific directors.

In 2018, the DSP recruited 13 scholars for the inaugural cohort: Eric Calvo (NIAID), Catherine Cukras (NEI), Sherine El-Toukhy (NIMHD), Freddy Escorcia (NCI), Sadhana Jackson (NCI), Jennifer Jones (NCI), Paule Joseph (NINR), Joseph Rodriguez (NIEHS), H. Nida Sen (NEI), Hugo Tejeda (NIMH), Joel Vega-Rodriguez (NIAID), Joana Vidigal (NCI), and Faustine Williams (NIMHD). Candidates for the DSP are nominated by the NIH ICs that have intramural research programs. Nominations for the 2019 cohort of scholars will be due in March 2019.

Financial support for the DSP comes from a central fund of contributions made by the ICs, which so far have committed support for three cohorts of scholars. Each scholar receives research funding from the DSP for the first four years of their tenure-track appointment; the respective ICs provide any supplemental funding during the first four years and full funding after that.

For further information about the DSP and bios of the 2018 NIH Distinguished Scholars, visit or contact Carl Hashimoto, who leads the DSP, at