The HEALTH EQUITY SCHOLARS PROGRAM (HESP): A Project of the Center for Health Equity Intervention Research
UMass Boston and the UMass Medical School were awarded a $6.7 million grant to establish the UMass Center for Health Equity Intervention Research (CHEIR), a collaborative partnership that will help improve outcomes for socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority populations. The center will bring together several disciplines from UMMS and UMass Boston, including public health, medicine, psychology, nursing, cultural anthropology, sociology, biostatistics, and informatics, to improve health and healthcare for people across Massachusetts. Part of the grant includes the creation of a minority health scholars program at UMass Boston. The Mauricio Gastón Institute will join with the William Monroe Trotter Institute and the Institute for New England Native American Studies to develop the program in the coming months. Next spring, students will be able to enroll in a class focusing on health disparities research. Our Research Training/Education Core is developing with UMass Boston an Health Equity Scholars Program (HESP). We will recruit 15 students each year from UMass Boston’s ethnic institutes to:
1) complete a 3-credit Introduction to Health Disparities Research Course;
2) participate in four longitudinal mentoring circles a year;
3) complete a research project and present a poster at the Annual Research Meeting; and
4) provide the opportunity for CHEIR affiliated research internships.
We recognize that creating a strong pipeline of underrepresented students is essential to developing a diverse workforce committed to health disparities research and to meeting the heath care needs of an increasingly diverse population. HESP is designed to address key factors identified in the student retention literature that operate to reduce successful academic achievement by underrepresented groups. These include lack of peer support, culturally responsive advising, faculty mentoring, and attention to the specific academic, financial, and situational challenges that underrepresented students bring to the college campus. Attracting underrepresented students in the sciences has been a particular challenge and minority student enrollment and degree completion in the sciences is decreasing. A National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute report found that low academic expectations, and lack of mentoring were experienced by minority students.
The HESP will consist of a three-credit course offered in the fall of each year, Introduction to Health Disparities Research, completion of a research project, structured mentoring, and additional CHEIR research experience opportunities. Course development will be lead by Dr. Gonzalo Bacigalupe who will work closely with Drs. Carole Upshur and Deborah Plummer, the UMass Boston Steering Committee, and the CHEIR Research and Community Engagement Cores to design course topics, identify guest lecturers, and identify student research projects. Topics to be emphasized are understanding the social determinants of health and health disparities; culturally responsive interventions; an introduction to research frameworks for understanding and intervening to improve/eliminate disparities; health literacy and research literacy; basic epidemiological and statistical concepts; critically reading the research literature; human subjects research ethics; participatory methods and community engagement; and examples of successful interventions presented by CHEIR faculty. Students will choose a condition and population and find secondary data on health outcomes and disparities for a final paper and poster that will be presented at the Annual CHEIR Research Meeting. The course will be offered each fall (in 2013, the course is being offered in the Spring) supported with CHEIR funding for the first two years until it is evaluated, revised, and firmly established.