With an estimated thirteen-million American adults and children afflicted, mental health disorders are a leading cause of disability in the United States often leading to premature death.
Research aim ed at understanding the fundamental mechanisms involved in the development of mental health disorders, as well as better tools to identify those at risk, and therapies and approaches to alleviate suffering are urgently needed. Success in this endeavor requires harnessing the human potential of all citizens of the USA. Currently, diversity within HIV- related and other neurological and mental health sciences is extremely low. At the other spectrum, ethnic minorities remain disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and more effort must be made to engage members of these communities in the scientific enterprise, medicine, and mental health and behavioral sciences. Seventy-five percent of college students in STEM fields decide in high school to study science. Therefore, targeting students at this early stage has the potential to have a large measureable positive impact on feeding the neuroscience and mental health pipeline with qualified clinician/scientists from diverse backgrounds. We believe the herein described program could fill a critical gap in the brain sciences pipeline by attracting bright under-represented students in Baltimore city and the surrounding metropolitan area at the very earliest stages when they are making critical career pathway choices. Our overall hypothesis is that provided with the right pre-college exposure, bright, intelligent, academically capable under-represented students educated in Baltimore City public schools can successfully complete an advanced degree in a science/medicine career tract. Through an 8-week summer internship program at the Johns Hopkins Medical campus, interns will gain critical thinking skills and employ the scientific method in the responsible conduct of research. Interns will gain knowledge about many fields of brain sciences and mental health through seminars, grand rounds, and clinic shadowing. Interns will gain skills in professionalism through mirroring, mentoring, and enrichment activities where they will have discussions and interactions with Hopkins faculty, undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral fellows. Through these means interns will gain knowledge about a variety of career paths in science and medicine. Special attention will be given to under-represented male students at the elementary school level through outreach seminars. Through tangible one-to-one connections, best served by a small, high-impact program providing direct mentoring, opportunities to shadow neurologists and psychiatrists in the clinic, and hands-on basic and clinical research experiences, we can reprogram the mindset and expand the horizon of possibilities for a career in brain and mental health sciences for these youth. Indeed, our preliminary data suggests that this goal is feasible.
Morbidity and mortality from HIV-related and other neurological and mental health disorders continue to increase particularly with the aging of the USA population. Clinician-scientists, basic neuroscience researchers and mental health professionals from diverse backgrounds are needed in order for the United States to remain a leader in the diagnosis, treatment and development of cures for neurological disorders. This proposal addresses the training of individuals from diverse backgrounds at the earliest career stage, namely high school.