The University of Kentucky College of Medicine has made incredible strides to enhance diversity and inclusivity in research and training. The college has established a new leadership position – the assistant dean for inclusive research initiatives – to build upon this progress and ensure continued advancement.

The position has been filled by Kevin Pearson, PhD, professor of pharmacology and nutritional sciences. He officially began his new role on Aug. 15.

Dr. Pearson had served as director of inclusive research initiatives for nearly two years. This rise in leadership recognizes his growing responsibilities and the college’s continued emphasis on developing opportunities for underrepresented trainees and faculty in research.

In this role, Dr. Pearson will work with college leadership to develop strategies that improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students, fellows, and faculty in research and support stairway programs to propagate a diverse biomedical workforce.

“We would not be as successful in research as we are today without the diverse backgrounds, expertise, and perspectives of our tremendous faculty, staff, and trainees,” said Rebecca Dutch, PhD, vice dean for research. “Dr. Pearson brings experience to this position that will be vital in promoting the inclusive research environment we are striving for.”

The assistant dean for inclusive research initiatives will be housed under the Office of Research but will also collaborate with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

As director of inclusive research initiatives, Dr. Pearson led the enhancement of the College of Medicine’s Stairway to Diversifying the Biomedical Workforce, a collection of programs aimed at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion from grade school to early-career research. In support of the research stairway, he coordinated a mini-retreat with research program leads to discuss ways to optimize communication across the college.

He also oversaw Pre-Faculty Development and Networking funding, which supported the professional development of diverse pre-faculty members or faculty from other institutions as a means of addressing inequities in academic medicine. Meanwhile, he coordinated the Dynamic Appointments in the Research Title Series (DARTS) Initiative to ensure early-career faculty have research independence and success by providing a four-year commitment to salary support and start-up, structured mentoring, grant writing support, and professional development.

Dr. Pearson has served as a faculty member in the UK College of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences since 2009. He was promoted to professor in 2019. In 2020, he received the University of Kentucky Inclusive Excellence Award for his successful implementation of inclusive practices as faculty in his department.

Dr. Pearson also serves as career development leader for the UK Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences, the co-director of the UK Research Scholars Program, and was recently named the chair of the University Senate Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.