RCMI sponsored Research


The Research Centers in Minority Institutions program, which develops the infrastructure for basic, clinical, and translational research at minority institutions, is focused upon women's health and health disparities at Meharry Medical College.

Ayman Al-Hendy, M.D., Ph.D, is the Scientific Director of the Center for Women's Health Research. In addition to his own laboratory which specializes in women's reproductive health, Dr. Al-Hendy also heads a team of newly recruited faculty who are focusing on women's health research. The long-term goal of the research supported by RCMI is to bring together a critical intellectual mass to develop collaborative research teams in the areas of reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, molecular and behavioral neuroscience, and cancer.

Contribution of Cellular Factors to HIV-1 Assembly (Pilot)
Xinghong Dong, Ph.D.
Dr. Dong was one of the scientists recruited more than five years ago to spearhead HIV research in the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research. He is a molecular virologist who uses cutting-edge approaches to elucidate how HIV particles are assembled, hoping to one day uncover a drug that can disrupt this assembly and introduce a new line of therapy for the deadly disease.

Vitamin D Deficiency and
increased risk of Uterine Fibroid in African Americans
(Pilot)

Sunil K. Halder, Ph.D.
Dr. Halder is a member of the Center for Women's Health Research.  He has demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency is a catalyst for uterine fibroids.  His studies utilize rodents and human tissues, as well as in vitro tissue culture. This research is very interesting in that uterine fibroids are common in women of color and most of these women are also vitamin D deficient. It is therefore imperative to establish this link so that women of color who are pre-menopausal can be convinced to take vitamin D supplements.

Gene Polymorphism and
Hypovitaminosis D in Health Disparity of Pre-term Birth

Chandrasekhar Thota, Ph.D.
Dr. Thota is also a member of the Center for Women's Health Research, and his research also follows the vitamin D theme.  He has demonstrated that pre-term birth can be linked to hypovitaminosis D in expectant mothers.  It is well known that there is disparity among races/ethnic groups when one considers pre-term births, and Dr. Thota and his group would like to address the molecular underpinnings of this health disparity.

Adolescent mood and addiction disorders
Dr. Uma Rao, M.D., recruited by RCMI and PI of two R01 grants
Dr. Uma Rao  completed her Child and Adolescent Psychiatry studies at SUNY at Stony Brook, N.Y., in 1990.  She was then appointed Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh (1992-1995), before moving to the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA Medical School (1995-2003) and finally to UT Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, where she attained the rank of professor and  was designated the Sara M. and Charles E. Sealy Chair in Child Psychiatry (2003-2010).  Dr. Rao has more than 20 years of clinical and research experience in child and adolescent psychiatry.  Her research is focused on the onset and clinical course of mood and addictive disorders in adolescents, involving the neurobiological (sleep, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and neuroimaging) and psychosocial (including temperamental, cognitive, and environmental) processes.  She has also examined developmental and ethnic influences on the neurobiological systems, as well as translational intervention studies, related to these disorders.  She currently has two R01 grants and several infrastructure grants such as the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance CTSA.  She is the director of the RCMI  Recruitment Core.