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UAMS Summer Undergraduate Research Program to Increase Diversity in Research

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PROJECT SUMMARY/ABSTRACT U.S. institutions of higher education have not been as successful as desired at attracting, enrolling, and graduating underrepresented (UR) or disadvantaged students who later pursue research and health professional careers. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has a number of faculty who engage in research that fulfills the NHLBI mission, with more than $20 million in total research funding from NIH and $5 million in research funding from other agencies. Thus, UAMS is well positioned to help address shortfalls in the diversity of researchers in cardiovascular, pulmonary, or hematologic areas by providing an active pool of potential research mentors for UR and disadvantaged undergraduate students. The UAMS Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) to Increase Diversity in Research was implemented in 2012 to increase the diversity of students entering these research fields; program funding was renewed in 2016. The overall goal of the SURP is to provide students with research, mentoring, and networking experiences; real-life surgical observations; and simulated cardiovascular demonstrations to increase their interest in careers in cardiovascular, pulmonary, and hematologic research. During the first funding period, approximately 95% of participants were expected to complete a bachelor?s degree, with 75% continuing education in a graduate or health profession program. During the second funding period, several SURP participants obtained their bachelor?s degrees and enrolled in graduate or medical school. Since the program started in 2012, 78% of all participants have completed a bachelor?s degree program; 54% are currently enrolled or have completed graduate or medical school programs. Most program participants who have not continued on to a health-related or graduate degree program are either preparing to apply to a graduate/health profession program or still actively engaged in research. The SURP has been successful at providing students with positive summer research experiences and long-term mentor-mentee relationships. To continue to build on the program?s success, we propose the following aims: 1) recruit a diverse group of academically talented and enthusiastic undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers in cardiovascular, pulmonary, or hematologic research; 2) support and cultivate successful and rewarding mentor-mentee relationships; 3) develop and promote student leadership and communication skills; 4) stimulate underrepresented and disadvantaged students? interest in research and health-related careers; and 5) evaluate the program and its activities annually to ensure student satisfaction and program success. Exposing underrepresented and disadvantaged students to basic, clinical, and/or translational research will provide a firm introduction and foundation to foster interest in research and health-related careers.

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