Meet the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program

Jan 21, 2013, 9:00 AM

This is part of a series introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio.

The Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program is on the verge of a milestone: it will observe its 30th anniversary this year.  In 2012, the program achieved another notable distinction, as a third alumnus was selected to lead an institute at the National Institutes of Health: Gary Gibbons, MD, (’88) is now director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). He joined Griffin Rogers, MD, MACP, (’83) Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and Roderic Pettigrew, MD, PhD, (’83) Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

Formerly known as the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program, the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (AFMDP) was created to increase the number of faculty from historically disadvantaged backgrounds who can achieve senior rank in academic medicine or dentistry, and who will encourage and foster the development of succeeding classes of such physicians and dentists. AFMDP offers four-year postdoctoral research awards to historically disadvantaged physicians and dentists who are committed to developing careers in academic medicine and to serving as role models for students and faculty of similar background.

The program defines the term “historically disadvantaged” to mean challenges facing individuals because of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or other similar factors.

AFMDP was renamed and expanded in 2004 in honor of Harold Amos, PhD, who was the first African-American to chair a department, now the Department of Microbiology and Medical Genetics, of the Harvard Medical School. Amos worked tirelessly to recruit and mentor minority and disadvantaged students to careers in academic medicine and science. He was a founding member of the National Advisory Committee of RWJF’s Minority Medical Faculty Development Program in 1983, and served as its National Program Director from 1989 to 1993. Amos remained active with the program until his death in 2003. The Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program was further expanded in 2012 to include dental medicine. 

Upon his being named director of NHLBI last year, Gary Gibbons wrote to RWJF and the program: “I am deeply indebted to RWJF, the visionary leadership of the AFMDP and my AFMDP peers for providing the inspiration, empowering self-belief, and nurturing social network platform that helped make this moment possible. I am eternally grateful for the formative, indelible experience that this fellowship provided me at a critical juncture of my career development.” He added that he hopes to “repay this priceless gift” by “passing the blessing on to the next cohort” of scholars.  Gibbons’ remarks reflect the mission, the spirit and the success of this remarkable program.

Learn more about the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program. Read about Gary Gibbons’ appointment to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.