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A cross-case analysis of developing program sustainability and institutionalization in early stages of a multisite biomedical student diversity initiative

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Background: Grant funding often drives innovative programming in efforts to enhance diversity in biomedical fields, yet strategies for sustainability of grant-funded biomedical intervention are not well understood. Additionally, as funding agencies shift toward supporting institutional change to biomedical training, less is known about the extent to which sustainability strategies can support long-term institutionalization of the original goals of the grant-funded initiative. The purpose of this study is twofold: to identify strategies used by grant-funded programs for promoting sustainability, and to examine the interrelations between the concepts of sustainability and institutionalization during early stages of grant-funded biomedical career training efforts. Methods: We employed a multiple case study design and cross-case analysis using interviews of program administrators and participants from 10 undergraduate institutions that received Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) awards funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Results: BUILD sites engaged in the following strategies to develop program sustainability: 1) scaling and adapting to expand programmatic impact, 2) identifying additional funding and cost-cutting measures, 3) developing and maintaining infrastructure and structural operations, 4) leveraging relationships and with intra-and inter-institutional partners, and 5) and addressing hiring, policies, and reward systems at the institution. Senior administrative support supported program sustainability and early institutionalization, although we also identified situations where participants felt that they were on track for sustainable changes without administrative support or institutional change. Of the strategies identified, those that involve organizational and infrastructural changes contribute to early stages of institutionalization. Conclusions: This study contributes to literature on organizational change by providing evidence of distinctions and interrelations between program sustainability efforts and institutionalization of change efforts in that some sustainability strategies can overlap with strategies to move toward institutionalization. The findings indicate the importance of program administrators developing early sustainability plans that also lead to institutionalization, as well as an opportunity for funding agencies to develop technical assistance on sustainability, organizational change, and institutionalization as a resource to support program administrators’ efforts toward making lasting, structural change on their campuses.




Cobian, K. P., & Ramos, H. V. (2021). A cross-case analysis of developing program sustainability and institutionalization in early stages of a multisite biomedical student diversity initiative. BMC Medical Education, 21(1).

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