This grant requested by The University at Texas at El Paso (UTEP) will focus efforts on the development of a transformative center of excellence called BUILDing SCHOLARS (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity: Southwest Consortium of Health-Oriented education Leaders and Research Scholars). The goal is to implement a suite of programs and activities that will positively transform the training of the next generation of biomedical researchers from US Southwest underrepresented groups through a multi- institution consortium in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as several key extra-regional sites. The center aims to: (1) Improve institutional capacities to accomplish proposed activities;(2) Develop an intra- and cross-institutional mentoring-driven community of practice;(3) Implement strategic activities for student recruitment, research training and mentoring;(4) Support the development of participating faculty and postdoctoral personnel;and (5) Establish a collaborative relationship with the Coordination and Evaluation Center for tracking and evaluation purposes. Once it is fully implemented, the center will support 135 undergraduate students on full scholarships every year. The activities are innovative in part because of the trans-disciplinary emphasis;the focus on early interventions;the use of an assets bundling approach to overcoming educational and research training barriers;integration of technology to link partners and enhance student connectivity;and the expansion of impacts through implementation of a research driven curriculum and a community of practice. All innovations will enable the proposed center to scale-up undergraduate research training and contribute directly to the diversification of the NIH-funded workforce. This proposal is significant because it takes a regional approach to designing a multi-institutional series of programs and activities that will meet the needs of underrepresented groups concentrated in the US Southwest on their path to becoming biomedical researchers.
The percentage of biomedical researchers from underrepresented groups who are awarded R01 grants is far below the corresponding percentage for majority groups. The proposed center of excellence will institute a progressively advanced set of programs to transform the biomedical research training of underserved populations in the US Southwest with the ultimate goal of improving their competitiveness for future ROI level support.