The low number of college graduates from underrepresented (UR) groups in Arkansas, together with the low national number of UR students who graduate in the biological sciences and public health, result in a small pool of students entering the field of biomedical research. To address this shortfall, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) created the UAMS Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Program in 2009 to provide UR students pursuing biomedical doctoral degrees with 2 years of salary/tuition, mentoring, and other student development activities with funds from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The UAMS IMSD Program has had a significant impact on UR enrollment in the doctoral programs. In 2008, the average UAMS enrollment of UR students in biomedical sciences doctoral programs was 6.1%, which trailed the then national average of UR student enrollment in all biological sciences of 8.2%. Currently, the average UR member enrollment rate in UAMS doctoral programs is 15.3%, 4.6 percentage points above the national average of 10.7% UR graduate students. The overall goal of the UAMS IMSD program is to improve upon the success UAMS has had in recruiting and retaining UR students during the first 4 years of the IMSD Program. We will do this by implementing our specific measureable objectives that aim to increase UR doctoral student enrollment in the biomedical sciences to 20% and boost the number of UR students graduating with biomedical science doctorate degrees to 20% of total UAMS biomedical doctoral graduates by 2019. These objectives align with the NIH-MBRS goals of increasing the number of UR students graduating from doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences at institutions with a research intensive environment and reducing the PhD completion gap between UR and non-UR students in the biomedical sciences.
Our first Aim i s to increase the number of UR student applicants to doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences by 50% by 2018. We will accomplish this by increasing our recruiting activities and enlarging our capacity to measure the results of these activities and subsequently revise our strategies.
Aim 2 is to retain and graduate 90% of the students in the IMSD Program. We will build on our past retention success by enhancing our PhD Summer Transition Program for matriculated students, expanding student development activities, enhancing retention activities, and advancing our mentoring plan.
The final Aim i s to evaluate the program and determine which factors contributed to successes and which areas need improvement, and disseminate the results. Program strategies and outcomes will be disseminated to the UAMS campus and other schools through newsletters, presentations, and publications. The initiatives proposed here can contribute to the global recruitment, retention, and graduation of all UR students at UAMS and provide lessons learned to other institutions, which will ultimately increase the numbers of UR faculty and investigators in the biomedical science workforce serving Arkansas and the nation.
The nation's institutions of higher education have not been as successful as desired at attracting, enrolling, and graduating students from underrepresented (UR) groups, creating a shortfall in the numbers of qualified UR applicants for biomedical sciences graduate programs. This shortfall has an adverse impact on public health, as the lack of UR physicians contributes to the problem of health care disparities experienced by minority groups, and the lack of UR researchers may contribute to a lack of research focus on issues affecting minority populations. The initiatives proposed in this plan will help increase the numbers of UR faculty, investigators, and students in the biomedical sciences and broaden the opportunities for their participation in biomedical and behavioral research, thereby better serving Arkansas and the nation.
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