NIH grant provides postdoctoral research, teaching experience for deaf scholars

Sarah in dark grey top and Wyatte in light grey shirt with mult-gray tie standing in front of staircase

A nearly $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will help advance research, teaching experiences and career preparation in the biomedical and behavioral sciences fields for deaf and hard-of-hearing postdoctoral scholars.

A program, known as the Rochester Postdoc Partnership (RPP), serves as a national model that allows deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who have earned advanced degrees to create mentored teaching experiences and do postdoctoral research at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and University of Rochester.

“What sets this research postdoctoral experience apart from traditional postdoctoral research is the emphasis on teaching scholars ‘how to teach’ and design new courses at RIT/NTID in full-inclusion classroom settings for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing undergraduates,” said Peter Hauser, director of the NTID Center on Cognition and Language and the Rochester Bridges to Doctorate Program. “People who are deaf, like myself, are underrepresented in life science disciplines and few are applying for biomedical or behavioral science research grants. This program is helping to rectify that circumstance.”

The program, which received five years of funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences through the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award, is now in its second year.

Two postdoctoral scholars currently are participating in the program.

Sarah Latchney, Ph.D., from Victor, N.Y., earned her doctoral degree in molecular toxicology at University of Rochester Medical Center and has performed postdoctoral research in neuroscience at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Latchney is now at the Wilmot Cancer Institute at URMC performing postdoctoral research on the cellular and molecular mechanisms affecting bone marrow hematopoietic stem cell biology in normal and pathological conditions. Latchney said she joined the RPP to take advantage of the unique training focus to enhance her academic research portfolio with the added dimension of acquiring skills in teaching pedagogy, designing course curriculum and teaching new classes at RIT/NTID and URMC.

Wyatte Hall, Ph.D., from Albany, N.Y., earned his doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Gallaudet University and performed one year of postdoctoral research in clinical psychology at University of Massachusetts. His research in the RPP program at URMC focuses on the lifelong consequences of language deprivation in deaf children and the developmental impact of early-language experiences on health literacy and outcomes in prenatal care and reproductive health of deaf females. Hall is starting his second year in the program and has gained teaching experience, research skills and training in grant writing to develop his future independent academic research and teaching program.

“It’s exciting to see the program taking off and impacting the careers of deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars, who are extremely underrepresented in science careers beyond a master’s degree,” said Gerard Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean.

Rochester has built a global reputation as a center for deaf and hard-of-hearing culture and education. In the last decade, collaborations between RIT, NTID, UR and the deaf community have led to a number of unique programs designed to support the growth of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists.

The program is seeking additional deaf and hard-of-hearing postdoc scholars. For more information, go towww.urmc.rochester.edu/academic-research-careers-deaf-scholars/about-the-program.aspx.