The Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT) Program at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) was initiated in 1994 to provide international research training opportunities to undergraduate, graduate and health professions students who are from health disparities populations and are underrepresented in biomedical sciences. The program aims at preparing the next generation of biomedical researchers that contribute to the elimination of health disparities among racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States. MHIRT serves as a critical segment of the education pipeline developed by the UCI Minority Science Programs (MSP) to interest and prepare underrepresented students for pursuing careers in basic science, biomedical, and behavioral research fields. Over 50 faculty members at the UCI School of Biological Sciences and School of Medicine participate in the training of MSP students. MHIRT students receive research training during 10-12 weeks in international health problems and diseases affecting a disproportionately large number of US-minorities at prestigious research institutions in Mexico, Spain, and United Kingdom. Trainees participate in original data collection in ongoing research project collaborations between leading UCI and foreign scientists. Research topics include infectious diseases, cancer, and neurological disorders. Training components include critical reading of current scientific literature associated with their individual research project, experimental research design, procedures for analyzing and interpreting data, written and oral presentations of research findings in national conferences, and their publication in peer-reviewed journals. Additional training components include mentoring MHIRT trainees through encouragement to complete current academic degree programs and pursue additional training leading to PhD degrees in biomedical sciences. Students receive orientation about cultural, linguistic, and ethical issues of trainees and professionals engaged in scientific research.
The inclusion of underrepresented groups in the biomedical scientific workforce is critical to improve the health of the people of the United States. The MHIRT Program at UC Irvine provides unique international research experiences, in original collaborative projects, to prepare a culturally sensitive and culturally competent workforce that contributes to the elimination of health disparities among racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States.
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