The University of Arizona (UA) seeks to continue and expand the effective implementation of a comprehensive training program to increase the number of underrepresented minority students (URMs) who enter and successfully complete doctoral degrees in the biomedical sciences. It has two components: (1) an IMSD Scholars Program providing fellowships, tuition, health insurance, a """"""""survival skills"""""""" seminar, travel to a national conference, and ongoing special mentoring and follow-up to 10 URMs per year admitted to one of 16 biomedical graduate programs at UA;and (2) a Minority Health Disparities Summer Research Opportunities Program (MHD/SROP) matching 8 UA undergraduates with experienced UA faculty to conduct full-time biomedical research for 10 weeks and learn how to prepare for graduate school and how to put together a strong graduate application. MHD/SROP also offers a weekly seminar on Minority Health Disparities because this theme has been shown by the earlier grants to greatly motivate URM students to pursue biomedical careers. Since many of our IMSD Scholars are now engaged in dissertation research related to health disparities, in this new grant we also propose to investigate how this motivates graduate URMs to finish a Ph.D. Participating students will be selected by an Advisory Committee and the Project Director and Coordinator will ensure that all NIH regulations and program requirements are met. Comprehensive program evaluations will be completed yearly by an independent evaluator. First funded in 2001, our IMSD program has helped increase by five-fold the number of URMs pursuing biomedical Ph.D.s at UA, from 16 in the year 2000 (prior to the IMSD grant) to 81 students in Fall 2007. 61 students have participated in the IMSD Scholars program during their first year of the Ph.D. and the other 20 have been supported by other training sources. Ten additional students are currently being considered for graduate admission and IMSD participation in Fall 2008. Three have already received a Ph.D. and 53 others are making satisfactory progress. Several of the Scholars would not have been admitted to the Ph.D. without IMSD support, yet they show an 87% retention rate, a much higher rate than that reported of students in the life sciences nationwide (62% according to CGS, 2005). All the Scholars who are not pursuing the Ph.D. have completed or are presently completing terminal degrees. The MHD/SROP has trained 205 undergraduates since 2001, including 54 UA MARC students, 50 of whom are already enrolled in biomedical Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D. programs.
The University of Arizona has the institutional commitment and a strong track record of enrolling and graduating URM students. Evidence of our success is the increase of minority enrollment, from 9.59% in 1983 to 27.6% in 2007. Our campus has been committed to diversity for many years and has instituted support programs that have made possible a steady increase in minority enrollment. The UA is currently ranked as one of two top Research Extensive (Research I) universities in the country in the enrollment of URM students. The Graduate College has taken a very proactive approach to the recruitment and retention of minority students. Graduate minority enrollment has increased steadily in the last ten years, from 897 in Fall 1997 to 1,328 in Fall 2007, a 52% growth in spite of a significant decline in overall graduate student enrollment in the last few years. In Fall 2007, minorities composed 22% of graduate enrollment at UA. A comparison with our ABOR Peer Institutions shows that the UA leads the other 15 universities in the number of Hispanic and Native American graduate students enrolled. The IMSD grant has been central to the transformation of graduate enrollment in biomedical sciences at UA, being responsible for a five-fold increase in URM graduate students pursuing Ph.D.s. The availability of IMSD first year support has clearly encouraged participating graduate programs to take risks in accepting some of our students. Our two previous IMSD grants have supported 61 Ph.D. students, with 10 additional students being considered for admission and IMSD funding for Fall 2008. Three (3) IMSD Scholars have already obtained a Ph.D and all 3 are gainfully employed as research scientists. Fourteen (14) others are scheduled to finish their Ph.D.s in 2008. In addition, the extensive recruitment provided by the Graduate College with institutional funds in support of the IMSD, has allowed the admission of 20 additional URMs in biomedical Ph.D. programs, supported by other grants. None of the participating Ph.D.- granting programs, on their own, would have had the resources or the staff to undertake such active recruitment. The IMSD grant has also helped support a Minority Health Disparities Summer Research Opportunity Program, providing intensive summer research experiences both to UA undergraduates and to undergraduates from other colleges and universities throughout the country. The program has greatly increased the number, preparation and confidence of many URM students who may not have perceived themselves as able to earn a doctorate prior to their participation in the program. MHD/SROP has also allowed faculty to observe first-hand the ability of some of these students prior to making a graduate admission decision. In several cases, personal knowledge of the student and his/her abilities, work ethic, and mature demeanor has compensated for less than stellar transcripts or low GREs, tipping the scales in favor of admission. Eighteen (18) former MHD/SROP participants are currently pursuing Ph.D.s or MD/Ph.D.s a UA. Extensive recruitment conducted by the Graduate College, the synergy created by the MHD/SROP program with other pipeline programs, and the excellent integration of the IMSD with T-35 grants and other sources of graduate training support, have been crucial to UAs'success in training URMs. Currently, of the 15 Research I universities designated as our Peer Institutions, the UA holds first place in the number of Hispanics and Native Americans enrolled in graduate programs.
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