US institutions of higher education have not been as successful as desired at attracting, enrolling, and graduating underrepresented minority (URM) or disadvantaged students. National data show that non-Hispanic whites over 25 years receive a bachelor's degree at a rate 2-3 times that of minorities, a significant problem for programs that lead to graduate and professional degrees in the health professions. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has a number of faculty who engage in research that fulfills the NHLBI mission, with >$4 million in research funding from NHLBI and $0.35 million in research funding from the American Heart Association. Thus, UAMS is well positioned to help address shortfalls of researchers in cardiovascular, pulmonary, or hematologic areas by providing an active pool of potential research mentors for undergraduate students. The UAMS Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) to Increase Diversity in Research was developed to increase the diversity of students entering these research fields. This proposal's overall goal is to provide students with research, mentoring, and networking experiences;real-life surgical observations;and simulated cardiovascular demonstrations to increase their interest in careers in cardiovascular, pulmonary, and hematologic research. Approximately 95% of participants are expected to complete their bachelor's degrees, with 75% continuing their education in a health profession or graduate program. The first goal is to recruit a diverse group of academically talented and enthusiastic undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers in cardiovascular, pulmonary, or hematologic research. Goal 2 is to foster successful, rewarding interaction among students and faculty mentors. Student will be paired with research mentors at the beginning of the summer and will work with their mentors on producing a paper and presentation detailing their summer research experience. The third goal is to develop student leadership skills with formal lectures by faculty from the Clinton School of Public Service. Goal 4 is to provide educational opportunities to stimulate student interest in research and health professional careers. Students will attend research seminars, be educated on the responsible conduct of research, interact with UAMS students, and be exposed to clinical activities. The final goal is evaluation of the program and its activities annually to ensure an outstanding summer research program for undergraduates. In all facets of research, investigators tend to choose research areas in which they have familiarity and past experience. Exposing students to basic, clinical, and/or translational research targeting heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and blood disorders will provide a firm introduction and foundation to foster interest in and encourage pursuit of careers in research and academic medicine.
Arkansas is primarily a rural state with a growing number of individuals living at or below the poverty level with limited access to health care. The state's poor, many of whom are members of minority groups, face health care disparities that can be reduced through health care workforce diversity. Diversity among biomedical sciences students and faculty, which the proposed initiatives will help achieve, is indispensable and will result in improved quality of medical education, improved access to health care for underserved populations, and accelerated advances in medical and public health research, resulting in a reduction in health care disparities and improved public health.
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