The Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (SPHTM), in collaboration with Xavier University of Louisiana, is applying to continue the highly successful Tulane-Xavier MHIRT Training Program that began in 2005 and was renewed in 2008. Four overseas sites (including a site in Peru with 3 distinct opportunities in different research areas) provide training relevant to health disparities populations in the United States, including cardiovascular diseases, tuberculosis, perinatal maternal and infant mortality, and emerging infections. The program provides international research training opportunities for qualified undergraduate, graduate and health professions students from health disparities populations who are underrepresented in basic science, biomedical, clinical or behavioral health research career fields. The Tulane/Xavier collaboration builds on the strengths and traditions of both institutions, i.e., the investigative capacity of the Tulane School of Publi Health and Tropical Medicine as a leader in international public health and tropical disease research, and the tradition of Xavier University as a leader in advanced scientific education for minority students from health disparities groups. Each year, program directors and research mentors from both universities select 10 students from both universities, including 7 undergraduates and 3 graduate or medical students, to participate in overseas research experiences. The overseas sites are linked to ongoing collaborative research projects led by participating Tulane faculty mentors. Research opportunities include studies of pediatric tuberculosis, behavioral aspects of dengue control, and pandemic influenza surveillance in Peru, interventions to reduce maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality in Argentina, Chagas disease in Mexico, and cardiovascular diseases in China. Participants receive intensive training in research methodology, ethics, and biosafety prior to travel, and the project provides pre-travel medical services and basic language training. Trainees work under the joint tutelage of U.S. and foreign faculty mentors, and their research findings are organized for oral and written presentation on return to the U.S. Students are encouraged to explore similarities and differences between the disease impact on the overseas population, and its impact on health disparities populations in the U.S. Our prior experiences suggest that these opportunities will stimulate students to see health disparity issues in the U.S. in a broader perspective as global problems, and be able to apply lessons learned from one group to the other. The program overcame significant initial obstacles in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina, but we have now completed 8 successful years of the program and are beginning to train of our ninth student cohort. Eighty percent of early program trainees (through 2010) have entered biomedical professional careers or advanced training programs. The Tulane-Xavier MHIRT program provides a unique opportunity for students from underserved health disparities populations to participate in a fully funded international research experience that is likely to encourage and facilitate professional carriers in global health research and service.
The Tulane-Xavier MHIRT program provides a unique opportunity for students from underserved health disparities populations to participate in a fully funded international research experience that may redirect their professional carriers toward international research and service and thus is highly relevant to public health.
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