Xavier University of Louisiana is first nationally in the number of African American graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees in the Life Sciences, and fifth in producing African American students who earn their PhDs in Science and Engineering. This success occurs in spite of the fact that Xavier is a relatively small, primarily undergraduate school and that the majority of its students face socioeconomic challenges. As medicine and pharmacy are familiar professions to Xavier students and their families, and since the University has a national reputation for producing health professionals, about 47% of Xavier?s new freshmen enter a premedical curriculum and another 27% enter as pre-pharmacy students. However, of these students a large percentage does not enter professional or pharmacy programs for various reasons. Thus, there are a significant number of students at Xavier who are at risk of being left behind and who might choose careers in biomedical research with early awareness, career advising, and hands-on research opportunities. The national literature identifies unique barriers faced by underrepresented individuals entering into biomedical research careers, including the lack of: (1) early awareness and deepening exposure to the type of rewards associated with biomedical research careers, and the sense of accomplishment gained from success in early biomedical educational experiences; (2) supportive relationships, particularly those related to faculty advising and mentoring; (3) suitable educational infrastructure; and (4) active engagement in meaningful biomedical research experiences and the presence of faculty and institutional resources needed to do this and enter graduate programs successfully. The Building Integrated Pathways to Independence for Diverse Biomedical Researchers Program at Xavier University of Louisiana (Project Pathways) aims to transform Xavier?s educational and support systems to better educate and engage students on the pathway to a biomedical research career, particularly those at high risk of not entering or of exiting this pathway. The second phase, Project Pathways II is responding to the findings of Project Pathways I by retaining, improving, or replacing initiatives as appropriate. Project Pathways II aims to identify the initiatives which are most impactful, cost-effective, sustainable, and transferable. The results of this Project Pathways II experiment will be widely disseminated to the greater academic community.
There is a significant national shortage of African Americans and other individuals from underrepresented groups in the biomedical research workforce. Xavier University of Louisiana, a Historically Black and Catholic University, is nationally recognized for its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), premedical, and pharmacy programs, thus a significant proportion of students enter Xavier with medical (47%) or pharmacy (27%) career goals. Less than one third of these students each year go on to medical or other professional schools, leaving behind a large number of students in biomedical disciplines, who, with additional training and support, might choose careers in biomedical research; thus Xavier is positioned to play a unique and important role in not only producing scientists to meet the current and projected future demands for increased diversity in biomedical research fields, but also to share the results and assessment of various initiatives with the nation for use by other institutions.
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