The goal of Improving Montana Community Health through Graduate Education is to increase community capacity to reduce health disparities in our state, by supporting under-represented minority (URM) graduate students in biomedical and behavioral sciences, who have strong ties to underserved Montana communities. Our hypothesis is that URM students will be more likely to apply to and complete health-related graduate programs when they have the opportunity to conduct community-based participatory research (CBPR) on health issues in their home communities. Graduate study can therefore be meaningful to them and their families, and be seen as leading to a career in which they can work to improve the health of their people. In communities where people have historically been the victims rather than the beneficiaries of research, ensuring that graduate work is locally meaningful and relevant, is vital. This model is already working in Montana (Cummins et. al. 2010), and has been nationally recognized as an effective innovation in undergraduate biology education (http://visionandchange.org/finalreport). Montana State University is uniquely positioned to offer this opportunity to URM graduate students, due to the current network of NIH supported community-based participatory health disparities research projects at all of Montana's seven tribal colleges, being conducted in collaboration with University faculty partners.
Our specific aims are to (1) Actively and personally recruit potential scholars statewide, providing mentorship throughout the application process;(2) Help scholars envision and plan how they can use their graduate programs to address health disparities or improve health in their home communities, by providing opportunities to learn about community-based participatory research, and by connecting them with existing tribal college-university networks and appropriate MSU advisors;(3) Provide scholars with financial assistance and academic support for key areas of their graduate education not being addressed by existing MSU resources;(4) Provide scholars with professional development opportunities that will help them succeed both in the academic world and in their home communities;(5) Explore whether integrating a CBPR option into graduate research will increase underrepresented minority students'recruitment into, retention in and satisfaction with graduate education, thereby also increasing their community's capacity to address local health issues, and disseminate what we learn. To attain these specific aims, our objectives are to: (1) Connect graduate degrees with Montana Healthcare Workforce needs;(2) Develop and offer a Research Methods I and II course sequence;(3) Provide a tutor-led study group for Statistics 401, or other top gatekeeper courses;(4) Connect students to existing support services campus wide, including the graduate writing tutor, the American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO) study center and computer lab, relevant student support programs and student organizations;(5) Provide a supplementary stipend for the top students, and assist all program participants with applying for other sources of graduate school funding;(6) Provide competitively available professional grants management training;(7) Support the broader professional development of program participants through presentation training, conference travel and leadership development training and (8) Dissemination, including recording and posting interviews with URM graduate student and URM scientist role models on project website as well as supporting student presentations of their research. An Advisory Committee representing community research partners, student participants, faculty researchers, and collaborating MSU programs will be established and meet biannually. The evaluation will include baseline, formative and summative components, and will be conducted with input from program participants and their research mentors, community research partners and Advisory Board members, with some assistance from an external evaluator. Dissemination will be via our website, in person on campus, in program participants'home communities, regionally and nationally. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a university-tribal college collaboration has proposed to offer community-based graduate opportunities in any discipline, and therefore dissemination of lessons learned will be vital and useful to URM students and communities nationwide.
The goal of Improving Montana Community Health through Graduate Education is to increase community capacity to reduce health disparities in our state, by supporting under-represented minority (URM) graduate students in biomedical and behavioral sciences, who have strong ties to underserved Montana communities. This program will support new and continuing URM students in graduate programs by offering them the opportunity to conduct community-based participatory research (CBPR) on health issues in their home communities, as well as by providing academic, financial and social support.