The IMSD (Initiative to Maximize Student Diversity) Program at the Harvard School of Public Health is designed to maximize the number of under-represented minority students pursuing quantitative research careers in health disparities. The overall goals of our training program are to: 1. Maximize pre-doctoral student diversity at the Harvard School of Public Health by recruiting and supporting 10 students per year from four Departments (Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Environmental Health, and Society, Human Development and Health), in order to- 2. Equip students with population health theories and methods to undertake research on health disparities;3. Provide mentorship in career development, skills, and competencies;4. Strengthen the "pipeline" within the institution - as well as nationally - for minority students to transition from pre-doctoral to post-doctoral fellowships, and eventually to faculty positions;and 5. Evaluate the effectiveness of the program following a defined set of objectives and criteria. Our focus on the theme of health disparities is consistent with the NIH-wide emphasis on health disparities research, as well as with one of the key missions of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), which is to understand -- and to intervene on -- the causes of health disparities. Within the institution, the IMSD training grant serves as a critical link in the "pipeline" of under- represented minority students that the Harvard School of Public Health has sought to build for over a decade. The links in this pipeline begin with the active recruitment of promising students through the efforts of the Office of Diversity and the Admissions Office. Following completion of pre-doctoral training within the IMSD program, the pipeline then extends to postdoctoral training programs at Harvard including the Kellogg Health Scholars in Minority Health Disparities and the Alonzo Yerby Postdoctoral Fellowship, which aim to maximize the transition of minority post-doctoral fellows to junior faculty positions. Doctoral students supported though the IMSD training grant are trained in their own disciplinary area, but also receive additional training in theories and methods relevant to health disparities research. This is accomplished through participation in weekly seminars and close working relationships with faculty mentors. In addition to training in research, students in the program also receive training in a set of core competencies essential for public health, including grant writing, publishing in the peer- reviewed literature, effective public presentations, and the responsible conduct of research.
While the nation has witnessed impressive gains in improving overall health, some Americans face much poorer prospects for good health than others. There is a critical need to equip a new generation of scholars with the theories and quantitative methods to analyze - and intervene on - the problem of health disparities in this country. The mission of the IMSD training program at the Harvard School of Public Health is to train a new generation of pre-doctoral students from under-represented minority backgrounds to become future leaders in the field of health disparities.
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