Lack of diversity in science and health professions contributes heavily to health disparities. Yet, the number of minority students entering careers in science and health professions continues to be small, at a time when the gap in health between the races has widened in the US. The goal of the Program described in this proposal is to nurture minority students' interests in science and medicine by enhancing their research capacity through participation in an intense international research training experience. This approach focuses on the students' strengths and abilities rather than seeing minority students as disadvantaged.
Specific aims are: 1) to select, train a cadre of underrepresented minority students in health disparities research in order to motivate them to become important participants in its solution; 2) To establish a mechanism for long-term 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. To achieve these aims, students are selected from a large national pool of qualified candidates. Selected students are matched with mentors in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Ireland, South Africa and Spain who already have a history of collaboration with Mount Sinai researchers through existing global health programs already supported by the NIH Fogarty International Center. Training within this established network ensures that students are paired with mentors who have themselves been trained through Mount Sinai programs and have fruitful research programs. This ensures that all students are closely mentored and integrated into active international research projects. The program has trained 70 students since 2005, 96% of them have completed the program. Evaluation of the program showed that students' careers are significantly enhanced through: publication of research papers (19 papers published and 2 submitted), presentations at international conferences (21 papers presented), 15 fellowships and awards, peer-to-peer mentoring, improved practice of research skills, and continued guidance from international mentors and program director. Twenty-two students received additional fellowships or other awards related to their participation in this program. This research program fosters bi-directional collaboration and continuous, long-term career mentoring between trainees, the program director and the international mentors in a way that emphasizes exchange of scientific and cultural knowledge in an atmosphere of support for diversity.
It has been documented that one of the factors that contribute to health disparities is the lack of diversity among scientists and health professionals. This proposal requests the continuation of a program that provides outstanding international research training opportunities for minority students. The program has experienced great achievements, including the long-term mentoring of students who have participated in the program.
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