Northern Arizona University (NAU) has one of the largest Native American student enrollments in the country, and has a large and increasing Hispanic enrollment. The IMSD program at NAU seeks to improve retention, academic achievement and, ultimately, graduate school enrollment of underrepresented minority students in biomedical research fields. To this end, the highly successful program at NAU will continue with a revised programmatic focus: lower-division undergraduates will participate in culturally relevant scientific research in the labs of select faculty mentors from the departments of Biology, Chemistry and Electrical Engineering. Through a combination of hands-on research experience and prescribed coursework, students will be made aware of minority health disparities and learn how biomedical research can address current health challenges facing minority communities. Enlisting students in research at an early stage of their academic career and providing intensive mentoring will promote retention in the program and the university. Providing students from underrepresented minority backgrounds, particularly Native American students, with opportunities to conduct research in culturally relevant research areas will increase students'interest in biomedical research as a career and improve students'self-efficacy as biomedical researchers. The program will be evaluated annually to address the following overarching question: What are the individual, social and structural factors that promote student success in the IMSD program and, ultimately, in biomedical research careers? Of particular interest to this program is a related question: How does awareness of minority health disparities affect inclination toward a biomedical research career? Expectations for success of the program are framed in the context of the unique URM student population and in light of results of past IMSD programs at this university. Achievement of the following outcomes will indicate program success: (1) retention of 75% of the students enrolled in the IMSD program from year 1 to year 2, (2) successful completion of the 2-year training program by >60% of initial program participants, (3) measurable success of the program in increasing interest in biomedical research careers as quantified using the proposed evaluation instruments, (3) placement of >50% of the initial program participants into graduate school in biomedical sciences by year 4, (4) completion of two degrees by IMSD doctoral students at NAU by year 4.
There is a critical need for biomedical professionals on Native American reservations, as well as a national need for greater representation of Native Americans and other underrepresented minorities in all career areas in the biomedical sciences. The IMSD program at Northern Arizona University seeks to inspire Native Americans and members of other underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in biomedical research science by providing them with hands-on training opportunities and introducing them to culturally relevant research topics, such as minority health disparities. By increasing the participation of underrepresented groups, the IMSD program will bring a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds to key medical questions, which will ultimately facilitate a higher level of problem solving and creative thinking in these health-related research areas.
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