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NIGMS Logo NIGMS > Minority Programs Update > Winter 2003 > ABRCMS Commemorates NIGMS Anniversaries

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   NIGMS Anniversaries

Undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members came from all over the country to attend the second Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), held November 13–16 in New Orleans, LA.

photo of students presenting at ABRCMS meeting.
photo of students presenting at ABRCMS meeting.

ABRCMS meeting participants had the opportunity to meet one another and share their experiences. Nearly 1,000 students made oral and poster presentations at the meeting, representing nine disciplines in the biomedical sciences.

The conference brought together MORE program participants, academic administrators, grant officials, and other members of the scientific community to hear research presentations; attend professional development workshops, poster sessions, and exhibits; and network with each other. The meeting also marked the special occasion of the 40th anniversary of NIGMS and the 30th anniversary of the Institute’s Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) and Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) programs.

The anniversary events began with a panel discussion by two Nobel laureates and a scientist who has been described as a potential laureate in the future. Dr. Thomas R. Cech of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Dr. Alfred G. Gilman of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas discussed their Nobel-winning research and encouraged students to pursue research opportunities. Dr. Erich Jarvis of Duke University, an up-and-coming scientist who participated in the MARC and MBRS programs as an undergraduate student at the City University of New York, Hunter College, described his research on vocal learning in birds. Jarvis’ honors include the prestigious Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation in 2002.

Jarvis also participated in a panel discussion on the scientific accomplishments and career pathways of MARC and MBRS alumni. The other speakers were Dr. Juliette Bell of Fayetteville State University, Dr. Luis Haro of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Dr. Yolanda Sanchez of the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Michael Anderson of The Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Scottie Henderson of the University of Arizona.

Dr. Clifton Poodry, director of the MORE Division, said “The recognition of the contributions of Geraldine Woods, with her family as guests in the audience, was very moving for me.”

Profiles of Excellence Available

ABRCMS attendees received a 16-page booklet highlighting six successful MARC and MBRS programs and the accomplishments of many current and former program participants. For free copies of the booklet, Profiles of Excellence: MARC and MBRS Programs, contact:

Office of Communications
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“If it weren’t for the efforts of Dr. Woods and her colleagues, NIGMS’ minority programs wouldn’t be the success that they are today. I am proud we could honor such important individuals as we marked the 30th anniversary of MARC and MBRS,” he added.

More information on the 2003 ABRCMS meeting, which will be held October 15–18 in San Diego, CA, can be found on the ABRCMS meeting Web site at

The panelists shared their experiences and offered their advice to students.

Haro discussed the path that led him to a science career. Born into a family of migrant farm workers, he explained that he was the first in his family to attend college. He realized that he wanted to become a scientist while he was an undergraduate student participating in the MBRS program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Anderson stressed the importance of having a mentor and emphasized that this was the most critical factor in helping him achieve his career goals. He urged students to find mentors who have their best interests at heart and told the students that mentors “don’t necessarily have to look like you” to do this.

The anniversary activities concluded with a banquet marking the 30th anniversary of the MARC and MBRS programs. In the keynote address, the Honorable Louis Stokes, a strong supporter of the programs during his tenure as a Congressman from Ohio, noted the importance of honoring the efforts of the individuals who helped create these programs. Stokes particularly commended the hard work of the late Dr. Geraldine Pittman Woods, who played a pivotal role in the development of several NIH minority programs, particularly MARC and MBRS.

Stokes also urged students to help others in need. He encouraged the students to remember that, as far back as 30 years ago when the MARC and MBRS programs were developed, people were working to help underrepresented minority students pursue biomedical research careers.

“You have the same obligation…to not only achieve your career and do it with excellence, but also at the proper point to reach back and help pull someone else up.”

Dr. Marian Johnson-Thompson, director of education and biomedical research development at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, paid further tribute to Woods, who was her mentor.

Geraldine Woods Award Established

photo of recipients of the Geraldine Woods Award

Recipients of the Geraldine Woods Award (from left) the Honorable Louis Stokes, Dr. Charles Miller, and Dr. Ruth Kirschstein.

This year’s ABRCMS meeting marked the establishment of the Geraldine Woods Award, which recognizes individuals who have had a significant impact in promoting the advancement of underrepresented minorities in biomedical science. The first recipients were three early advocates for NIGMS’ minority programs: the Honorable Louis Stokes, Dr. Ruth L. Kirschstein, and Dr. Charles A. Miller.

Stokes was recognized for his support and ongoing commitment to the research training of underrepresented minorities. Stokes’ efforts resulted in the creation of a number of NIGMS and NIH programs to support minority students and minority-serving institutions.

Kirschstein, currently a senior advisor to the NIH director, previously served as the deputy director of NIH. She was the director of NIGMS from 1974–1993, and she served as acting director of NIH from 1999–2002. Kirschstein was cited for her leadership, dedication, and commitment to the research training of underrepresented minorities while at the helms of NIGMS and NIH.

Miller, a former director of what at the time was the NIGMS Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease Program Branch, was recognized for his work to encourage the research training of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical sciences. Miller served as a champion at NIH for such programs and led efforts to establish the MARC program at NIGMS.

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