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LRP Director's Blog



A Closer Look: Did the NIH Expansion of the Health Disparities Research LRP Impact Success Rates?

Omar McCrimmon, M.A., and Matthew Lockhart, M.B.A. (September 23, 2020)

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 16:02

Beginning September 1, 2019, the NIH expanded participation in the Health Disparities Research Loan Repayment Program (HDR-LRP) to include all NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs).  Previously, all HDR-LRP applications were assigned to and reviewed solely by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).  Each year, the HDR-LRP would receive more than 400 applications, but due to budgetary constraints, fewer than 100 could be funded, which meant significant numbers of meritorious applications would go unfunded each year.  Now, HDR-LRP applicants, upon applying, can select one NIH IC from a list of 24 NIH ICs participating in the HDR-LRP for primary review assignment and, if desired, one additional IC for secondary review assignment. While NIH takes an applicant's selection under consideration, final review assignments, as usual, are determined by the Division of Receipt and Referral, Center for Scientific Review.

The Extramural LRPs are competitive with a nearly 50% success rate overall.  However, the success rate for HDR-LRP applications ranged from 15% to 26% from FY 2015 to FY 2019.  With its expansion during the FY 2020 cycle, the HDR-LRP saw 170 applicants receive an award from 20 ICs, which represents more than double the 83 awards made in FY 2019 and the highest success rate (36%) since FY 2014.

FY Applications Awards Success Rate
2015 486 125 26%
2016 512 111 22%
2017 462 105 23%
2018 451 67 15%
2019 392 83 21%
2020 468 170 36%

Table reflects historical # of applications, awards, success rates

A closer look at the FY 2020 HDR-LRP awards shows that the following ICs funded the highest number of awards:

NIH Institute or Center


National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)


National Cancer Institute (NCI)


National Institute on Aging (NIA)


National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)


“We are extremely thrilled about the FY 2020 Health Disparities Research LRP results. Not only does it indicate the wealth of Health Disparities Research portfolios throughout each NIH IC, it also allows NIH ICs to more fully engage in this LRP category,” said Ericka Boone, Ph.D., Director, Division of Loan Repayment. “We’re hopeful that these results will encourage applicants to think about their research more broadly now that we’ve revealed that other NIH ICs have a strong interest in HDR applications.”

As a reminder, the objective of the NIH LRPs is to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals to careers in biomedical or biobehavioral research. Qualified health professionals who are engaging in NIH mission-relevant research for at least 20 hours per week at a nonprofit or government institution may be eligible to apply to one of the five extramural LRP subcategories:

  • Clinical Research: Patient-oriented research conducted with human subjects;
  • Pediatric Research: Research that is directly related to diseases, disorders, and other conditions in children;
  • Health Disparities Research: Research that focuses on minority and other health disparity populations;
  • Contraception and Infertility Research: Research on conditions impacting the ability conceive and bear young; and,
  • Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds: Available to clinical investigators from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The application period for FY 2021 LRP awards opened on September 1 and will close on November 20 this year.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to review each IC Mission and Research Priorities statement and then contact one or more IC scientific LRP liaisons to discuss their research and career interests as it relates to the research and funding priorities of the selected IC.  Research and funding priorities can change yearly, so it is important that applicants contact a liaison – ideally in advance of the opening of the application cycle – to ensure appropriate understanding of IC priorities.  The list of NIH IC scientific LRP liaisons can be found on our Contact & Engage page.

For additional assistance, call or e-mail the LRP Information Center at 866-849-4047 (Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST) or You can also follow the NIH Division of Loan Repayment on Twitter and Facebook for more information and cycle updates.

Q&A with LRP Liaison

Ericka Boone

Posted on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - 11:20
Roya Kalantari
Roya Kalantari

Q&A with LRP Liaison – Roya Kalantari, Ph.D., Program Officer in the Division of Lung Diseases (DLD) at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Hi everyone! I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are well during these unusual times.  If you’ve heard one of my LRP presentations, you’ve heard me discuss how absolutely crucial it is to reach out to an LRP program officer before submitting your application, as they know the ‘secret sauce’ regarding research and funding priorities for their respective Institutions/Centers. For the next couple of blog posts, I’ll be chatting with LRP program officers, just to drive home the importance of getting comfortable with discussing your research with NIH officials. 

Conversation with Dr. Kalantari

What is your current title and role/responsibilities within your NIH Institute/Division?Why did you choose to become involved in research training?

My current title is Program Officer in the Division of Lung Diseases (DLD) at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Beyond managing the LRPs for NHLBI, I handle training grants for most of the Lung Biology and Disease Branch in DLD in a variety of research areas ranging from rare lung diseases, to lung development, and infection. I also manage a portfolio of research grants on the lung microbiome. I am the DLD representative on several committees including the NHLBI Training Committee, the contact for various funding announcements (such as the K23 and our R03 program), and also participate in a variety of other activities such as organizing workshops and other meetings.

I’ve been interested in career mentoring since I started my own research career. NIH systems and programs can be really overwhelming and confusing to navigate, so to me, being able to provide some guidance to researchers early on is really important. It’s very rewarding to provide the support and help that allows people to build the foundations of their career and watch them go on to become successful, independent researchers!

Can you provide a general overview of some of the priority research areas supported by your Institute?

NHLBI supports research, training, and education programs on heart, lung, blood, and sleep (HLBS) diseases and disorders. This research ranges from basic through clinical, implementation, and population research. The best place to view examples of the kinds of research we support and to read about our research priority areas is in our Strategic Vision.

I know that you have a role with providing support for the LRPs, but what other funding mechanisms do you have in your portfolio?

I have a very wide variety of mechanisms in my portfolio. I support funding mechanisms from training up through standard research grants, including NRSAs (F30, F31, F32, T35, T32), Career Development Awards (K01, K08, K12, K23, K24, K25, K99/R00), R25s, and R01s.

I’m sure that you know that early stage investigators are ALWAYS a little anxious about reaching out to a program officer because they are afraid that they will ask ‘the wrong’ questions.What are some examples of good questions that any investigator should ask their program officer?

There really aren’t bad questions, especially if this is your first time applying for NIH funding! But I do think the best questions are informed ones. Do your research on your program of interest ahead of time and figure out where your gaps in knowledge are so that you can really maximize your time with the PO (especially since the LRP website is full of helpful information!).

Discussion topics you might want to bring to your program officer include: fit with the Institute (but check out the NIH Matchmaker first!), what a strong mentor or mentoring team would look like, the factors the make for a strong training plan, what key areas reviewers tend to look at, and if you’re sending in a resubmission, how to respond to reviewers to strengthen your application for the next round. It’s best to at least have some kind of idea for what you want to include in various sections of the application before asking about them so that the discussion can really be tailored around you and your plan. POs really do have your best interest at heart, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

In your words, can you tell me the importance of reaching out to a program officer before applying for an LRP or other NIH funding mechanisms?

Since Program Officers handle many grants and listen to a lot of reviews, they have a wealth of knowledge on common pitfalls and what factors play into a successfully funded application. While your mentor and collaborators may be a great resource for discussing the science, they may not have applied for a career development award, or other type of training grant very recently (or at all). POs in the training space can help you navigate the factors involved the application that your mentor may not be as familiar with. POs are also very good to talk to when you’re planning a resubmission, since they have a more unbiased view of the reviewer comments and may have insights as to what issues are most important to focus on. We also might also know of other funding programs that would fit your research to help you maximize your potential for success.

New Year, New Goals

Ericka Boone

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 - 01:49

Dr. Ericka Boone

Happy New Year! Now that all of the turkey has been eaten and all of the gifts have been exchanged, it’s time to get back to business! As you know, the 2020 LRP application cycle officially closed on November 15th, and more than 2600 researchers from across the country submitted applications. Those applications are now undergoing review, so stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, I’d like to remind you of a few programmatic changes, and one important update that will be implemented beginning in September:

Programmatic Reminders:

  • The maximum LRP award amount (depending on debt level) is now $50,000. Thus, awardees can receive up to $100,000 in student debt relief during their first award.
  • Participation in the Health Disparities Research LRP has been expanded to all NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). Previously, all HD LRP applications were only reviewed by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Now, when applying for the HD LRP, applicants can select from a list of more than 20 NIH ICs that fund this program.

Programmatic Updates:

  • Beginning September 1, 2020, a new extramural LRP subcategory will be launched! The Research in Emerging Areas of Critical Human Health (REACH LRP) is intended to address high priority emerging and gap areas of research. Stay tuned for an official announcement.

Now that everyone is back to work and the official grind is on, remember that taking care of yourself should be at the top of your ‘To-Do’ list.It’s reported that one-third of people who visited a doctor last year mentioned high stress levels as contributing to their health issues.Don’t let stress impact your physical health, and don’t let imposter syndrome creep in, cloud you with self-doubt and disrupt your mental well-being.I’ve given several workshops over the past year addressing imposter syndrome as a career development impediment, and trust me, you’re not alone.Read more about my thoughts on imposter syndrome in the latest edition of The POSTDOCket. Feel free to leave us a comment about your stories of overcoming imposter syndrome on Twitter.

As we close out this month’s DLR Director’s Blog, I’d like to remind you that if you have questions about the LRPs, feel free to call or e-mail the LRP Information Center at 866-849-4047 (Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST) or You can also follow the NIH Division of Loan Repayment on Twitter and Facebook for more information and cycle updates. Take good care of you and cheers to an outstanding 2020!

Posted on Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 13:18

Recently, the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) Conference has become a must attend for the Division of Loan Repayment. This conference is the largest national conference and networking event dedicated to the postdoctoral community – and most of all, it’s a ton of fun! This year, I presented a workshop on Imposter Syndrome.  To my delight, the session was an absolute success!  As evidenced by the standing room only crowd, session attendees really wanted to gain insight on how to deal with the imposter within.  So, what is Imposter Syndrome? It’s described as a pattern of thought where an individual doubts their own accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as completely unprepared and unqualified.

Basically in a nutshell, it’s that internal worst best friend that reminds you (loudly) of your mistakes, that you’re a bit of a fraud, your accomplishments are due to ANYTHING other than your talent or intellect and oh, by the way....everyone is going to find out soon and you’re going to be super embarrassed  I’d say the most difficult part of dealing with imposter syndrome is that NO ONE talks about it, so its allowed to loom over us....undermining our courage to speak up in meetings, go after new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, or simply putting ourselves out there and showing up more fully in our lives.
If you have ever had any of these imposter thoughts, you’re in good company. It’s estimated that 70% of the population has battled the ‘imposter monster’.  Even some of the most successful people will encounter imposter syndrome at some point. 

“The struggle with self-doubt never goes away; even with writing my book, I asked myself— 'am I good enough?’— it can haunt us, because the messages that are sent from the time to time are that maybe you not don't reach too high. Don't talk too loud."First Lady, Michelle Obama

“I never raised my hand in my first year at Princeton because I was too embarrassed and too intimidated to ask questions. I went on to Yale Law School where I was at the top of my class—and despite all of my professional accomplishments, I still look over my shoulder and wonder if I measure up.” - Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor

But once you identify those imposter thoughts and feelings, managing them can get better with time.  First, however, you have to gain a different perspective.  So, what are some ways that an individual can combat the whirlwind of anxiety and negative self-talk that accompanies imposter syndrome?  I have a few pointers:

  1. Plant Your Feet....Breathe
    • When you are feeling overwhelmed, stop what you’re doing, unclench your teeth, take a breather and try to separate your true feelings/concerns from your fears (i.e., what are you really concerned about?).
  2. Silence is NOT Golden
    • You don’t have to go it alone and you don’t have to know all of the answers.  Remember that you CAN ask questions and it’s ok to ask for help/support.
  3. Be Your Own Best Friend
    • Play a new mental tape and visualize your success instead of failure.  Try thinking “ how can I make this happen?” versus, “I don’t’ think this will work out”.
  4. Brush Your Shoulders Off
    • Try to reframe your internal response to mistakes.  Instead of taking criticism or questions as a confirmation of your lack of ability, it’s important to detach the issue/criticism from feelings about who YOU are (after all, they are not even remotely the same thing).
  5. Cut Out the Instagram/Snapchat Mentality
    • It was once said that “comparison is the thief of joy”, so stop idolizing your mentors and others you look up to...and by all means, don’t compare your perceived ‘blooper reels’ to their ‘success reels’!
  6. Do Something Good for Yourself and Maybe Even Someone Else
    • What do you do for yourself?  Do you exercise, sleep or create art?  Self-care is not selfish.  After all, how can you be at your best if you’re constantly running on empty?  Also, think about mentoring someone else.  Not only will you empower someone else, you will empower yourself at the same time!

As you can probably guess, there was a TREMENDOUS amount of interaction among our session attendees at NPA and I’ve received several invitations to present at different universities.  While it may make me a little nervous to accept all of the invitations, I’m happy to ‘turn the lights on’ and expose the imposter monster for what it is...just thoughts that we have the ability to dial down. Perhaps I’ll see you soon at your local university!  In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about imposter syndrome, here are two articles that I think you will find useful: 10 Steps You Can Use to Overcome Imposter Syndrome, and  Intellectual Self Doubt and How to Get Out of It. Take good care of you!

NPA attendees gathering for the Imposter Syndrome Presentation
NPA attendees gathering for the Imposter Syndrome Presentation