University of Cincinnati commits $12M to advance ‘Next’ inclusive culture

Financial commitment establishes FIRST+ Lives Here for Urban Health program

The University of Cincinnati is committing $12 million to grow inclusive excellence by leveraging diverse perspectives to advance innovation, creativity and complex problem solving in biomedical research. The new program, Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST+) Lives Here for Urban Health, aligns with the National Institutes of Health’s FIRST Program and advances the university’s Next Lives Here strategic direction.

The FIRST+ Lives Here for Urban Health program seeks to:

  • Expand leadership and faculty development initiatives to cultivate sustainable culture change that promotes inclusive excellence at UC
  •  Recruit and invest in a diverse group of early-stage investigators and strengthen recruitment and retention strategies related to inclusive excellence
  •  Advance career success and satisfaction of diverse faculty through professional development, mentorship and community-building


This important initiative directly aligns with our Next Lives Here strategic direction — spanning the Academic Excellence, Urban Impact, and Innovation Agenda platforms. Our investment builds upon a foundation of work around inclusive excellence. Success within our ‘First+ Lives Here for Urban Health’ program will help our academic community better represent the rich diversity found within our local community.

UC President Neville G. Pinto.

As part of the FIRST+ program commitment, which includes financial support from the Next Lives Here Research2030 program, Office of the Provost, College of Medicine and College of Arts & Sciences, nearly $9.5 million will support the hiring of a diverse group of six new FIRST+ faculty over a five-year period at the assistant professor tenure-track level. Remaining funds will be used for FIRST+ programming related to faculty development, inclusive community building and practice changes, and evaluation.

“The strategic collaboration and allocation of resources to create the FIRST+ program clearly illustrates the university’s commitment to transformation and inclusion,” says Valerio Ferme, PhD, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “By increasing the diversity of early-stage investigators in the sciences, youth within our community will be able to see that they too can pursue a future in academia creating a clear pathway for their future.”

New hires within the FIRST+ program will be within the neuroscience, cancer and biomedical informatics scientific clusters, which span multiple UC colleges including the College of Medicine and College of Arts & Sciences. FIRST+ faculty with data science and/or biomedical informatics research programs will also be supported within the Office of Research’s newly opened state-of-the-art UC Digital Futures building located in the Cincinnati Innovation District.

The university has also applied for over $10 million through the National Institutes of Health to further these initiatives, including an increased investment in programming and an expansion of the FIRST+ cohort with six additional faculty hires. If awarded, the NIH grant will boost UC’s financial commitment to $22 million toward growing a culture of inclusive excellence.

“By promoting inclusive practices, we can enhance research and innovation at UC,” says Pat Limbach, PhD, vice president for research at UC. “Increasing our diversity strengthens the quality of research at UC to further our mission as an urban public research institution.”

UC faculty and administrators tapped to lead the FIRST+ Lives Here for Urban Health overall program:

Keisha Love, PhD, Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Academic Inclusion
FIRST+ Overall MPI, Administrative Core Lead

Brett Kissela, MD, Executive Vice Dean, College of Medicine
FIRST+ Overall MPI, Contact PI for NIH Proposal

Maggie Powers-Fletcher, PhD, Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases
FIRST+ Overall MPI, Operations Director

James Mack, PhD, Divisional Dean, Natural Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences 
FIRST+ Overall MPI

John Byrd, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Internal Medicine
FIRST+ Overall MPI

Questions regarding FIRST+ faculty hires can be directed to Keisha Love, PhD, at

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