Lack of diversity in science and health professions contributes to health disparities. Yet, the number of minority students entering careers in the science and health professions continues to be small, at a time when the gap in health between the races has widened. The Division of International Health of Mount Sinai School of Medicine has created the International Exchange Program for Minority Students. The goal of the Program is to nurture minority students'interests in science and medicine by enhancing their research capacity in a way that validates their unique cultural and linguistic abilities. This is done by providing minority students with intense training and research opportunities in a global health environment that validates the skills and cultural backgrounds that the students already have. This approach focuses on the students'strengths and abilities rather than seeing minority students as "disadvantaged".
Specific aims are: 1) To select, train and nurture a cadre of underrepresented minority students at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels in basic concepts of health disparities research in order to motivate them to become important participants in its solution. 2) To establish a mechanism for collaboration between minority trainees and research mentors in partner institutions around the globe, especially in Latin America, that is mutually beneficial, validates the trainees'potential contribution to science, and increases their capacity for research in health disparities. Students are matched with mentors in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Spain or South Africa. Mentors have a history of collaboration with Mount Sinai researchers through an existing International Training Research Program in Environmental and Occupational Health (supported by the Fogarty International Center) that has been successful over the last 14years. Training within this established network ensures that students are paired with mentors who have productive research programs. An ongoing independent evaluation allows implementation of improvements during the course of the grant. Over the three training cycles that the program has been in operation, 17 students completed the program and 10 are in progress during the time of preparation of this application. Of the 17 students who have completed the program, 4 published or submitted peer-reviewed articles and 5 presented at international scientific conferences with their international mentors. This program fosters lasting bi-directional collaboration between trainees and their international mentors in a way that emphasizes exchange of scientific and cultural knowledge in an atmosphere of support for diversity.
Health disparities continue to be a major national concern. The lack of minorities in the health professions contributes to health disparities. In an increasingly global society, students should gain an international perspective in order to effectively address future challenges in health. This program provides opportunities for minority students to gain international research experiences that focus on solutions to health disparities.
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