Although there has been a considerable increase in the number of minority trained scientists, the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing advanced degrees in the biomedical and behavioral sciences remains below their representation in the U. S. population^ The field of public health remains significantly deficient in the number of minorities pursuing advanced degrees and research careers, and few minority graduates in public health go on to scientific research careers^ One method of addressing this problem is by attracting health disparity population students to research opportunities to cultivate their interest and develop their research capabilities. In 1999, the Arnold School of Public Health (ASPH) and the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium (AHEC) hosted a series of community meetings attended by representatives of public health agencies, secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, nonprofit organizations working to address poverty and educational disparities, and area churches with economically disadvantaged and minority memberships. During these sessions the problems of under-representation of minorities in public health and related careers were examined from each educational level. Problems related to minority under-representation and barriers to improving that representation were identified. For middle school, high school, and college students, lack of awareness and understanding of public health were identified as an overwhelming obstacle to the presence of more public health professions in the community. This includes the fact that students, parents, and school personnel have a limited definition of public health and public health careers;the perception that public health professionals do not make good salaries;lack of knowledge of public health education and career requirements;and lack of exposure to the public health workplace. College students identified the major barriers as a lack of role models in public health professions and a lack of financial support necessary to pursue professional degrees in public health. The core challenge for newly appointed faculty is learning how to be successful in teaching, research, service, and collegiality without sacrificing personal relationships, health, individual voice, and integrity. Underrepresented faculty have described additional strains of isolation, alienation, and lack of visibility; classroom hostility;racially-based double standards;persistent stereotypes;exclusion from networks;and the devaluation and marginalization of scholarship^. Our current Center of Excellence in HIV/AIDS and Cancer has provided research training opportunities that focus on HIV/AIDS and HPV cervical cancer to underrepresented faculty and graduate and undergraduate students over the last four years (See Progress Report). Through the CCE-SPHERE, we shall continue to expand upon our efforts to recruit, develop, and retain qualified individuals from underrepresented populations to diversify researchers in the areas of the social determinants of health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
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University of South Carolina at Columbia
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