The BEST (Biostatistics and Epidemiology Summer Training) Diversity Program provides research opportunities in the quantitative health sciences of biostatistics and epidemiology, as applied to heart, lung, blood, and sleep (HLBS) research. Our target audience comprises undergraduates who are under-represented in biomedical research (those from disadvantaged backgrounds, racial and ethnic minorities, and individuals with disabilities), and who will contribute to a more diverse research workforce in the future. Students will learn to analyze data from research studies in heart, lung, blood, and sleep (HLBS) disorders. The program has been running for the past 10 years, and has already successfully ?graduated? 124 individuals: all 124 have completed the program (100% retention), and the vast majority of alums (65-89%) are pursuing graduate study and careers in the quantitative sciences and in biomedical research. We seek to continue the program and recruit 14 students per year, whose training will include: a course in the fundamentals of biostatistics and epidemiology; introduction to landmark research and current challenges in HLBS diseases and disorders; enhancements to academic and professional skills via lectures on graduate school applications, resume preparation, and interview skills, increasing the likelihood of acceptance to graduate programs; GRE preparation; and interactions with other diversity programs at Columbia for mutual synergy and support. With continued funding, we will make several major enhancements. First, we will extend BEST training to include 2 burgeoning areas of unparalleled importance to biomedical research: data science and precision medicine. Columbia University has launched major initiatives in both areas, which we can leverage to enrich the BEST curriculum and research experiences. Second, we will extend our ?Research in Action? field trips, to expose BEST students to a wider variety of career opportunities in academia, the pharmaceutical industry, and non- profit research organizations. We will also continue to devote significant effort towards evaluation, to improve the program. With a strong foundation built on the achievements and experience of running the BEST Program for the past 10 years, and with extensive, multi-year input and feedback from students and participating faculty, we are perfectly positioned to move ahead with a better, broader, and more comprehensive program spanning careers in biostatistics and epidemiology. Through selected shared academic and social activities, BEST participants will learn about career opportunities in biomedical research, and learn from one another about how to collaborate with colleagues from diverse geographic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds, thus expanding the perspectives of all. Given these assets, Columbia's reputation as a major research hub, its extensive portfolio in HLBS research, its expert faculty, its unique initiatives in data science and precision medicine, and its location in the ethnically diverse, culturally rich center of New York City, we are eager to contribute to NHLBI's goal of building a more diverse scientific workforce.

Public Health Relevance

Biomedical scientists, especially those with training in quantitative methods, are essential to the success of the biomedical research enterprise. Compared with US population figures, the representation on research teams of individuals from race-ethnic minority groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds lags far behind. The BEST program is designed to increase the proportion of under-represented individuals seeking graduate training and careers in biostatistics and epidemiology, which in turn will expand the national pool of investigators, bring broader perspectives in setting the research agenda, increase our ability to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds, and ultimately work to reduce health disparities.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Education Projects (R25)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHL1)
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Wolz, Michael
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Columbia University (N.Y.)
Biostatistics & Other Math Sci
Schools of Public Health
New York
United States
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