Despite a number of efforts by researchers and policy makers to address the unequal burden in health and illness experienced by ethnic and racial minorities in the U.S., disparities have remained persistent (IOM, 2012). The issue of health disparities and the challenges in training adequate numbers of scientists from these populations are interrelated (NRC, 2005). Increased involvement of well-prepared nurse and social work scientists from underrepresented groups in generating knowledge aimed at addressing health disparities and improving health care access and quality is critical to these ongoing efforts. The overall goal of this 3-year UM Social Work/Nursing Bridges to the Doctorate Program renewal application is to continue to develop and strengthen an already successful record of transitioning master's level social work and nursing students from selected underrepresented populations at two partner institutions to enrollment in PhD programs emphasizing preparation of researchers who will address health disparities. Specifically, we will recruit, enroll, and graduate 12 additional master's students (two cohorts of 3 students each for a total of 6 from each partner institution) in years 1 and 2. At least 75% (n=9) will apply to and be accepted in research intensive PhD programs in social work or nursing for training in health disparities research. Each cohort of master's level students will complete a Summer Research Program in residence at the University of Michigan to supplement their training in graduate level statistics, conducting health disparities research, and preparing competitive applications to PhD programs. Existing partnerships at Eastern Michigan University and California State University-Los Angeles will be strengthened and expanded through new initiatives to build institutional and research capacity in both partner institutions through faculty development in effective mentoring, with a particular focus on working with students from underrepresented groups, and training in the conduct of health disparities research. These capacity-building activities will benefit both mentors and Bridges scholars as well as strengthen our recruitment efforts. Current and future Bridges graduates will be tracked for 10 years after completing the Bridges program to document academic success and research contributions.
Disparities in health and health care are a major public health issue for U.S. citizens belonging to particular social groups. This proposed Bridges to the Doctorate program, in an effort to strengthen the research skills as well as career development through strong mentoring of master's level social work and nursing students from underrepresented groups, will contribute to the urgent and ongoing need for preparation of behavioral and social scientists from these groups. This program can help increase the number of social work and nursing behavioral and social scientists from underrepresented groups holding PhD degrees and conducting research on health disparities.