The BEST (Biostatistics and Epidemiology Summer Training) Diversity Program provides research opportunities in the quantitative health sciences of biostatistics and epidemiology, as applied to heart, lung, blood, and sleep (HLBS) research. Our target audience comprises undergraduates who are under-represented in biomedical research (those from disadvantaged backgrounds, racial and ethnic minorities, and individuals with disabilities), and who will contribute to a more diverse research workforce in the future. Students will learn to analyze data from research studies in heart, lung, blood, and sleep (HLBS) disorders. The program has been running for the past 5 years, and has already successfully "graduated" 53 individuals, many of whom are pursuing careers in the quantitative sciences in biomedical research. We seek to continue the program and recruit 16 students per year, whose training will include: a course in the fundamentals of biostatistics and epidemiology;introduction to landmark research and current challenges in HLBS diseases and disorders; enhancements to academic and professional skills via lectures on graduate school applications, resume preparation, and interview skills, increasing the likelihood of acceptance to graduate programs;preparation for taking the GRE;and interactions with other diversity programs at Columbia for mutual synergy and support. With continued funding, we will further hone our marketing strategies and selection criteria in order to attract a competitive applicant pool. We will also continue to devote significant effort towards evaluation efforts, to improve the program over time and ensure that a high percentage of BEST scholars go on to pursue graduate study and careers in biostatistics, epidemiology, public health, biomedical research, and HLBS research. With a strong foundation built on the achievements and experience of running the BEST Program for the past 4.5 years, and with extensive, multi-year input and feedback from students and participating faculty, we are perfectly positioned to move ahead with a better, broader, and more comprehensive program spanning careers in biostatistics and epidemiology. Through selected shared academic and social activities, BEST participants will learn about career opportunities in biomedical research, and learn from one another about how to collaborate with colleagues from diverse geographic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds, thus expanding the perspectives of all. Given these assets, Columbia's reputation as a major research hub, its extensive portfolio in HLBS research, its expert faculty, and its location in the ethnically diverse, culturally rich center of New York City, we are eager to contribute to NHLBI's goal of building a more diverse scientific workforce.
Biomedical scientists, especially those with training in quantitative methods, are essential to the biomedical research enterprise nation-wide. Currently the representation on biomedical research teams of individuals from race-ethnic minority groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds lags behind US population figures. The BEST program is designed to increase the proportion of under-represented individuals seeking graduate training and careers in biostatistics and epidemiology, which will enrich the national pool of investigators, bring broader perspectives in setting the research agenda, increase our ability to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds, and ultimately work to reduce health disparities.