The low number of college graduates from underrepresented (UR) groups in Arkansas, together with the small number of UR students nationally who graduate in the biological sciences, results in a small pool of UR students entering fields of biomedical research in Arkansas. To address this shortfall, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Program was created in 2009 to provide a comprehensive start-to-finish mentoring and training program that includes 2 years of support (salary, tuition, fees) for UR students pursuing biomedical PhD degrees. The overall goals of the UAMS IMSD Program are to enhance our retention success with regard to UR students and to refine strategies to recruit additional UR students. The specific measureable objective is for 90% of IMSD students to complete the doctoral degree.
The first Aim i s to matriculate 6 new UR doctoral students each year. We will enhance recruitment activities to attract UR students to UAMS and the IMSD Program. The Program recently expanded to accept students from 3 doctoral programs (Graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences, Biomedical Informatics, and Pharmaceutical Sciences) two of which were started within the last 5 years.
Aim 2 is to retain and graduate 90% of the students in the IMSD Program. Success will be built upon past retention by enhancing the PhD Summer Transition Program for matriculated students, expanding student development and retention activities, and enhancing our mentoring plan.
The final Aim i s to determine which program components contribute to student success and which areas need improvement, and disseminate the results. To identify the program components that contributed to past success and elucidate ways to improve, the program will be evaluated and results will be disseminated to the UAMS campus and other schools through the website, newsletters, presentations, and publications. The initiatives proposed here can contribute to the global recruitment, retention, and graduation of all UR students at UAMS and provide lessons learned to other institutions, which will ultimately increase the numbers of UR faculty and investigators in the biomedical science workforce serving Arkansas and the nation.
The nation's institutions of higher education have not been as successful as desired at attracting, enrolling, and graduating students from underrepresented (UR) groups, creating a shortfall in the numbers of qualified UR applicants for biomedical sciences graduate programs. This shortfall has an adverse impact on public health, as the lack of UR physicians contributes to the problem of health care disparities experienced by minority groups, and the lack of UR researchers may contribute to a lack of research focus on issues affecting minority populations. The initiatives proposed in this plan will help increase the numbers of UR faculty, investigators, and students in the biomedical sciences and broaden the opportunities for their participation in biomedical and behavioral research, thereby better serving Arkansas and the nation.
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