Healthy People 2020 addresses gaping disparities in health behaviors, outcomes and quality of health care in African American, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native populations. A key national strategy for reducing these disparities is to increase the number of scientists and professionals from these populations working in the health research arena. Health disparities mirror educational disparities, in that both are rooted in economic disadvantage. Large income gaps are associated with lower rates of completion of baccalaureate degrees, which challenges our national goals for training a diverse public health workforce to meet national health equity goals. As Smith and colleagues (2009) suggest, without intentionally and substantially supporting the academic success of minority students, progress will not be made in the elimination of health disparities. Internships and mentoring have been shown to increase both retention rates and the likelihood of pursuing a graduate degree among minority students. One critical area in this workforce pipeline is maternal and child health, where ethnic and racial disparities are associated with infant mortality, low birth weight, childhood obesity, adolescent pregnancy and youth sexual risk behaviors. This proposal addresses these very challenges through an intensive summer research program that engages diverse cohorts of UMass Boston undergraduate students (12 per year) in innovative educational activities and in-depth experiences working on funded maternal, child and family health research projects being led by five UMass Boston faculty. Transition supports are included to bolster student career progression. UMass Boston is an ideal site for such a program, having recently made significant strides in increasing its regional, national and international research credentials, while in tandem providing opportunities for undergraduate research. A US Department of Education Title III Institution, UMass Boston?s student population is 56% first-generation, and 33% of its 12,847 undergraduates are under- represented minorities. We strive to provide numerous and rich opportunities for students to perform research, interact with the community, build core skills, and sustain their pursuit of research as their career and passion.
Specific aims of this proposal are to: (1) Plan, implement and evaluate a 10-week mentored undergraduate summer research program. Evaluation of student and mentor experiences will include collection of the following quantitative and qualitative data: (a) Pre- and post-program survey data to quantify changes in students? view of science as a career, perceived learning, and awareness of future education and work in maternal and child health; (b) Pre- and post-program assessments of changes in students? global and role- based self-efficacy; (c) Post-program structured interviews to assess students? and mentors? perspectives on students? experiences and learning, program quality and need for improvements, and personal satisfaction; and (d) Portfolio-based qualitative evaluation of students? skill development, including presentations on research and community experiences, and use of statistics, research ethics, and career resources; and (2) Contribute to the recruitment and development of a new generation of under-represented biomedical, behavioral and clinical researchers in maternal, child and family health. Evaluation will include: (a) Annual follow-up surveys to assess past students? career development, perceived knowledge/skill, satisfaction with and endorsement of the program, and ideas for program improvement; and (b) Annual follow-up assessment of students? educational and career accomplishments, tracked in the National Student Clearinghouse database currently utilized by UMass Boston.
The proposed project will help increase the participation of under-represented populations as researchers in maternal, child and family health, increasing the field?s ability to include the perspectives and address the needs of diverse and underserved communities.