This renewal application stems from our successful first four years of a Bridge-to-the-Doctorate grant (South Texas Doctoral Bridge Program (STDBP; 2013-2017) supporting a partnership between the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio; PhD-granting) and Texas State University ? San Marcos (TxState, master's granting). The overarching goal of the STDBP is to increase the number of individuals from populations underrepresented (UR) in the biomedical sciences with quality education, research training, and mentorship that will position them to enter the best doctoral programs in the nation. Our program objectives are to recruit and train UR TxState students to complete a thesis-based M.S. degree and to prepare them not only to be competitive for acceptance into top-ranked biomedical doctoral programs, but also to be successful once they matriculate into those programs. During the prior 4 year project term, 22 M.S. graduate students received financial support from the STDBP grant award and have been trained in basic research by a cadre of highly motivated and talented participating faculty. Over 70% (10/14) of the Bridge Scholars who have exited the program bridged successfully to doctoral programs within two years of enrolling in the M.S. program. These include 8 Bridge Scholars who graduated with M.S. degrees and are currently enrolled in doctoral programs (7 Ph.D. and 1 D.V.M.) at outstanding research-intensive institutions including; UT Health San Antonio, Baylor College of Medicine, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, and Dartmouth College, amongst others as well as 2 Bridge Scholars who did not complete the master's degree because they elected to, and have transition directly to Ph.D. programs (UNC Chapel Hill and University of Iowa respectively) after their first year in the Bridge program. All STDBP alumni that have bridged continue to do well in their doctoral programs and several have since garnered merit-based awards since matriculating. One of the two Bridge Scholars who graduated with M.S. degrees but are yet to bridge, has stated plans to apply this fall to professional programs and the other is assessing career options. Eight Bridge Scholars remain in M.S. training (5 of who will also apply to Ph.D. programs this year for Fall 2018 entry) and two were terminated from the program early on for not meeting programmatic requirements with one of the latter still at TxState completing the requirements for the M.S. degree. Therefore excluding those dismissed from the program, overall, 10/12 Bridge Scholars (83%) seamlessly transitioned to doctoral studies without any time lapse. In this first cycle, the STDBP developed a new course focused on critical thinking, experimental design & analysis and responsible conduct of research to strengthen the curriculum at TxState. This course is now established and incorporated into the core curriculum for all M.S. (Bridge and non-Bridge) students in the Chemistry & Biochemistry department. Building on these accomplishments, our vision in this STDBP renewal is to further increase the number of UR students who graduate from TxState and successfully bridge to top-tier doctoral programs nationwide. To accomplish this, we will use a combination of: (i) enhancement of the TxState curriculum by development of new contemporary curriculum in ?Genomics & Bioinformatics? and ?Scientific Rigor & Reproducibility?; (ii) innovative and targeted developmental activities designed to prepare Bridge Scholars to continue to be competitive for admission to, and success at, top-tier doctoral programs; and (iii) refinements in student recruitment strategies and student tracking as well as mentor training. This competing renewal application seeks continued support again for 6 trainees each year for 5 years.
There is a need for a diverse biomedical research workforce able to address disparities in health and health care linked to race/ethnicity and socio-economic status amongst other factors. The overall goal of the South Texas Doctoral Bridge Program, a formal partnership between University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (PhD granting institution) and Texas State University- San Marcos (master's degree-granting institution) is to increase the number of students from underrepresented minority (URM) populations who complete doctoral studies in the biomedical sciences. Through a series of programmatic activities involving rigorous didactic preparation, mentoring and experiential learning, URM students in the master's degree program at Texas State will be bridged into competitive and high quality PhD degree programs. This will prepare them for future careers in biomedical research and equip them with the skills and competencies to address health disparity issues.
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