Native American and Hispanic communities are in desperate need of doctoral-level health care professionals and researchers with the capabilities to understand and address the unique health issues of these low-income populations. The most efficient way to provide culturally appropriate care is to train individuals from these underrepresented minority groups who have a personal understanding of specific cultural health issues to research and health care regimens to develop. Fort Lewis College is uniquely positioned to increase the number of underrepresented minority students entering biomedical-related doctoral training programs. Approximately 1000 of our undergraduate students (about 28% of the student population) are Native American or Hispanic. The 758 Native American students come from more than 105 different tribes from across the United States in response to our Native American tuition waiver. The Hispanic students derive from the large Hispanic population in the Four Corners area. STEM disciplines, particularly Biology, are the most popular majors of the minority students. To date, our success in mentoring minority students into doctoral programs has been modest, with about four Native American and Hispanic students entering doctoral programs in the last five years. The MARC U-STAR training program that we propose will increase the number of underrepresented minority students with the qualifications to be admitted to doctoral level graduate programs to at least nine students over the next five years. The program will immerse the students in faculty-lead, biomedicaly-relevant research projects at Fort Lewis College and our research intensive institutional partners with the goal of demystifying the scientific enterprise and linking the basic scientific knowledge learned in disparate courses into a larger framework. Additionally, we will actively recruit high achieving underrepresented minority students from high schools and community colleges with the goal of developing a community of scholars at Fort Lewis College. Our long term goal is to establish a reputation for preparing underrepresented minority students for successful careers as doctoral level health professionals and researchers.
Native American and Hispanic communities have the worst access to health care in the United States. Since Fort Lewis College attracts Native American students from more than 105 tribes from across the country, the training program that we propose has the potential to impact health care and delivery for Native American and Hispanic communities well beyond our local region.