Savannah State University (SSU), a HBCU with 84% African American enrollment, submits a renewal MARC U-STAR program proposal to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical/behavioral science workforce. The renewal proposal seeks to build on the foundations and successes of SSU?s current MARC training program (2012-2018). Over the past 5 years, the current MARC program has trained 13 scholars, of whom 38% to date have entered biomedical/behavioral science graduate programs (1 postbac, 2 MS, 2 PhD); other MARC trainees are still in the pipeline to the PhD. Continued renewal funding is needed to sustain the momentum created by the current MARC program, along with gains from SSU?s other recent NIH biomedical research training funding (RISE, NIBIB, and RIMI). The 5 year goals of the proposed renewal program are: a) 13 Honors MARC junior/senior scholars (juniors recruited by year 3/2/3/2/3) will be trained over the 5 year term, with 100% graduating with the bachelor?s degree; and b) 60% will enter biomedical/behavioral science PhD programs within 3 years of the BS degree, and of these 80% (6) will earn the PhD. The 60% PhD entry rate will be achieved and sustained through implementation of new strategies developed through a rigorous institutional assessment: a) Strengthen the quality of MARC trainees by strengthening the identification and recruitment of the highest-potential students who have genuine research career ambitions as evidenced by prior successful research experiences; b) Strengthen the quality of research training, through strengthened Scholar professional development and program evaluation conducted in partnership with research intensive graduate program partners; and c) Strengthen the quality of mentoring provided to MARC scholars by coordinating with graduate program partners and NIH National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) on mentoring and grants-writing training for SSU MARC preceptors, and by each preceptor developing postbac and other bridge strategies to ensure transitions to PhD programs. The overriding goal of the new strategies is to focus on the quality of the trainees, the mentors, and the training program, with 5 high-quality scholars each year matched with 5 high-quality mentors.
Savannah State University?s proposed renewed MARC U-STAR program -- an Honors PhD preparation training program for underrepresented minority (URM) students -- has high public health relevance. African Americans represent 13% of the US population, yet only 3.4% of the biomedical workforce and 1.6% of R01 funding. Through this renewal proposal, SSU (84% African American enrollment) will increase the number of highly trained URM biomedical and behavioral PhD scientists who will contribute to the urgent public health needs of US populations, including health disparities suffered by underserved populations.