The CFAR Mentoring Program’s Underrepresented Minority (URMs) Group in HIV Research

In January of 2020, our CFAR launched a new program to provide designated support, mentoring, and advocacy for racial and ethnic underrepresented minority (URM) early-stage investigators (ESIs) in HIV research at UCSF. Guided by Dr. Monica Gandhi’s Directorship of the CFAR, this program is being led by the CFAR Mentoring Program Co-Director, Dr. John Sauceda. Dr. Sauceda was chosen to lead this program after a competitive process at UCSF.

Rationale for the Program - We know that URMs face barriers to research independence and job satisfaction in academia that are beyond the focus of many mentoring and career development programs. While grant writing and scientific, career and professional development support are critical to the success of all ESIs, URM ESIs often have little support and advocacy to effectively deal with microaggressions and institutional racism, which impacts motivation to persist in a competitive research environment. Further, URM researchers are often carrying the burden of the minority and gratitude tax (generally defined as the extra burden placed on minority faculty in the name of diversity). The additional responsibilities and burdens URMs carry in academic departments include managing tokenism, being asked to perform extra university service, carrying additional clinical duties if they focus on minority patient populations, and feeling obligated to institutions in broadly mentoring many junior URMs in the field.

Our new program is designed to advocate and support URMs in navigating the long-standing systemic barriers in academia, as well as provide traditional key career, mentoring, and professional development support. Specific features of this program include:

  • Monthly lunches with URM ESIs with the Director of the CFAR (Gandhi) and Director of the URM program (Sauceda) to discuss specific needs and to foster peer support
  • Special and designated mentoring workshops that are flexible to meet the needs of the group in the context of current events
  • Advocacy at the campus-level for issues affecting URM ESIs identified during these meetings
  • Designated writing support
  • Grant preparation support
  • Designated Boost awards, and
  • One-on-one recruitment, retention and negotiation retention support for members seeking new positions or advancement.

Are you a URM HIV researcher at UCSF or its affiliates concerned about the lack of equal opportunity or treatment or advancement challenges that may prevent you from reaching your academic or professional goals? Then join this safe program, where together you and your peers, with the full support of our CFAR leadership, have the power to come up with ideas and solutions to address issues that matter to you, giving you a direct pathway towards potentially implementing URM-focused policies at UCSF.

Our program aims to harness the collective experiences and ideas of URMs on strategies to address scientific and racial barriers to success in academic research, specifically HIV/AIDS-related research through our CFAR.

If you have interested in learning more about this new program, please feel free to reach out directly to Dr. John Sauceda ( or the Associate Director of CFAR, Lauren Sterling (