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

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.

By: Omar McCrimmon, M.A. and Matthew Lockhart, M.B.A.
Date: September 23, 2020

Authored By
Omar McCrimmon, M.A. and Matthew Lockhart, M.B.A.