restricted access Unsung Heroes: Mr. Frank Jackson and Dr. Richard Bragg
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Unsung Heroes:
Mr. Frank Jackson and Dr. Richard Bragg

Racial/ethnic minority investigators bring unique perspectives and experiences that enhance the potential for understanding factors that underlie racial/ethnic variation in health and health status. Unfortunately, the representation of these scientists among National Institutes of Health-funded principal investigators remains inequitably small.

This supplemental issue of the Journal highlights the research of underrepresented racial/ethnic minority scientists and therefore provides an especially suitable forum for recognizing people who have contributed to the training and mentoring of these scientists. The two individuals we have chosen to spotlight in this issue, Mr. Frank E. Jackson and Dr. Richard Bragg, share at least three characteristics: a commitment to the training and advancement of underrepresented racial/ethnic minority scientists, a belief that training and mentoring is essential to their advancement, and selflessness.

Mr. Frank E. Jackson

Mr. Frank Jackson retired from his position as Program Director in the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities at the National Cancer Institute in 2006 after 36 years of service to NIH. He received training in histopathology while serving in the U.S. Army and in electron microscopy at the Leonard Wood Leprosy Foundation. Frank joined the National Cancer Institute in 1970 as an electron microscopist and worked there until assuming a position as an Administrative Officer in 1982. In 1987, Frank left the NCI to work in the Division of Contracts and Grants for the National Institutes of Health. He returned to NCI in 1990 to work for the precursors to the Center for Reducing Health Disparities (i.e., Special Populations Studies Branch and the Office of Special Populations Research). His primary responsibility was oversight of the Science Enrichment Program and the National Leadership Initiatives on Cancer, which included the Black, Hispanic, and Appalachian initiatives. The Science Enrichment Program was designed to introduce underrepresented incoming 10th grade students to science careers. The program consisted of 4–6 week in residence training at a various college campuses. Students were recruited from all over the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. Approximately 1,800 students were trained during the 14 years this program was in existence. Frank was also the primary author of the request for applications (RFA) that created and funded the NCI Special Populations Network (SPN). The SPN was designed to build [End Page 6] relationships between large research institutions and community-based programs and to find ways of addressing important questions about the burden of cancer in minority communities. Networks funded under the SPN were required to train junior minority researchers through the funding of research pilot grants. Projects were to be led by junior minority researchers under the supervision of a more senior researcher. More than 200 pilot projects from 150 minority investigators were submitted under this program. Frank was very active in facilitating and disseminating information on training and mentoring opportunities for underrepresented minority scientists both within and outside of the federal government. He describes training as being "essential" stating that "in addition to academic preparation, you must have real life experiences. The real life experiences help make the academic preparation meaningful." He describes his role as assisting aspiring scientists in navigating the system. Mr. Jackson has received a number of awards for his contributions in education, cancer control, and involvement of communities in the elimination of cancer health disparities.

Figure 1. Mr. Frank Jackson
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Figure 1.

Mr. Frank Jackson

Figure 2. Dr. Richard Bragg
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Figure 2.

Dr. Richard Bragg

Dr. Richard Bragg

Dr. Bragg is the Coordinator of the Minority Health Services Research Program in the Office of Research, Development and Information at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Originally trained as a political scientist at Howard University, Dr. Bragg became interested in health services when in 1986 a close member of his family was diagnosed with cancer. His experience with the treatment and subsequent death of his family member along with his desire to prevent others from suffering a similar fate led to a major change in his career path. After a stint at the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as an HIV and AIDS Prevention Project Officer, Dr. Bragg...