Collectively, Arizona’s minority populations make up 43 percent of the state’s residents. They also face a disproportionate share of the state’s obesity, diabetes and metabolic disease burden. The University of Arizona Health Sciences (UAHS) actively works to develop ways to ensure all communities, including the state’s poorest, most remote, high-risk yet underserved regions, can attain the highest level of health and quality of life.
The programs housed within the UAHS Office of Diversity and Inclusion are examples of how the UA Health Sciences is working to increase awareness of health inequities and to increase the number of health sciences and health-care providers and researchers committed to improving the health of all of Arizona’s communities and beyond.
This summer, the UAHS Office of Diversity and Inclusion is offering four highly competitive programs that will launch in June and range from Med-Start, a statewide summer residency program for entering high school seniors, now in its 47th year, to programs that bring in outstanding local and national undergraduate, graduate-level students and academic professional clinicians for advanced research training: FRONTERA, BLAISER and AZ-PRIDE.
The welcoming ceremony for these programs will take place on Monday, June 6 at 8 a.m., in Drachman Hall, Room A114, 1295 N. Martin Ave., Tucson.
The dedication and commitment to create a diverse health-care workforce representative of the population it serves has been a high priority for Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, MD, UA senior vice president for health sciences. Dr. Garcia has fortified the UAHS diversity pipeline with program enhancements, including faculty mentors who represent some of the nation’s health sciences leaders. The result is a more diversified UAHS study body that will go on to graduate as medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, public health professionals and researchers who are committed to health equity.
“Our flagship diversity and inclusion programs will graduate a more diverse student body and they also will graduate students who are dedicated to serving Arizona and the nation’s most high-risk and remote populations. I am proud to say this is a campus-wide commitment with our faculty members serving as mentors to these scholars while also providing research opportunities tackling some of health care’s most pressing challenges,” said Dr. Garcia.
The four UAHS Office of Diversity and Inclusion Programs participating in the welcoming ceremony and providing summer-long programs are:
Now in its second year, the AZ-PRIDE Program at UAHS was developed to provide training in the biomedical sciences for early-career academics who come from under-represented minority backgrounds, including people living with disabilities. Funded by a $1.25 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, this year’s class includes 10 junior faculty members, recruited from universities throughout the nation, who will train with UAHS faculty mentors for one year. While training at UAHS, they will gain expertise from some of the nation’s best physician-scientists in the fields of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders, with the aim to increase the number of underrepresented experts in health disparities research.
The training begins June 6 and includes two weeks of summer training, including a trip to the Mexico/Arizona border and distance learning in health disparities research methods to supplement direct instruction and other support programs.
Also in its second year, the Border Latino and American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER) program begins June 6 and will run through Aug. 10. The UAHS-funded program will focus its efforts on addressing health disparities in Arizona’s ethnically diverse and fast-growing communities.
The 10-week, paid undergraduate research experience provides an extraordinary laboratory training opportunity, pairing the student scholars with preeminent faculty researchers at UAHS. They will gain hands-on experience as they conduct research to gain insight into some of the nation’s more challenging diseases. BLAISER is designed to help underrepresented students, including Latino, Native American and African American undergraduate juniors or seniors, become nationally competitive medical school, health professions and biosciences-focused graduate school applicants. This year’s class has grown from an inaugural 15 to 19 underrepresented students majoring in biology, chemistry, physiology, microbiology, engineering, computer sciences and similar fields, from border region and universities found throughout the country – including the University of Texas at El Paso and Cornell University.
Meeting the heath-care needs of the people of Arizona includes ensuring that those who live along its border with Mexico, home to an estimated 2 million people, are served by a health-care workforce representative of this unique, vibrant community.
Understanding the bicultural nature of life among people who share similar resources and are economically and socially interdependent is vital to the improvement of border health-care outcomes. In response, 10 students have been selected for the FRONTERA Summer Internship Program. FRONTERA (Focusing Research on the Border Area), provides undergraduate students opportunities to prepare for medical school with a hands-on research experience and an increased understanding of public-health disparities in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Participants are matched with UA faculty mentors engaged in biomedical and public-health research that has an impact on border communities. They develop an in-depth understanding of the pathway to medical school, including study and test-taking skills, preparations for the MCAT and drafting a personal statement. Students also travel to border communities, visit health-care facilities and public health agencies, on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and participate in service-learning activities. The program, which begins June 6 and continues through Aug. 10, is supported by a Center of Excellence Grant from Department of Health and Human Services-Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Since 1969, more than 1,000 high school students from Arizona’s most remote and under-represented areas have been accepted into the Med-Start program. The highly competitive health career interest program is a proven success with 80 percent of its participants progressing to higher education.
The Med-Start program has two goals: to address the critical shortage of a diverse health-care workforce and to provide students opportunities to explore health careers and college opportunities to successfully reach their academic and career goals. This year, 46 Med-Start students, hailing from Chinle to Vail, will experience college life by earning four units of college credit through the UA during the six-week program. The high school students will take an English composition class, an introductory to chemistry lab and learn about college success strategies in structured “College 101” workshops.
In addition to exploring health careers, Med-Start students participate in interactive presentations throughout UAHS, learning skills needed in health professions, such as responding to trauma incidents, treating fractures and neck and spine injuries, learning dissection and suturing skills, learning to make lip balm and anti-itch lotion and touring the UA College of Medicine – Tucson anatomy lab, ASTEC simulation lab and learning basic toxicology in the black worm lab. The program begins June 5 and continues through July 16. This year’s program was developed with support and in collaboration with the UA Area Health Education Centers.
To learn more about UAHS Diversity and Inclusion Programs, please visit, http://diversity.uahs.arizona.edu/
About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: http://uahs.arizona.edu
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