MSUToday
Published: Sept. 14, 2011

Grant aims to overcome disparities among medical researchers

Contact(s): Jason Cody Media Communications office: (517) 432-0924 cell: (734) 755-0210 Jason.Cody@cabs.msu.edu, Elahe Crockett Department of Medicine office: (517) 432-8417 ecrocket@msu.edu

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University professor is using a $1.1 million federal grant to help overcome the racial and socioeconomic disparities seen among health and medical researchers.

Elahe Crockett, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at MSU's College of Human Medicine, will use the National Institutes of Health funding to establish a short-term research education program aimed at under-represented, minority and disadvantaged students at MSU.

The goal of the program, known as the Research Program to Increase Diversity in Health Researchers, is to inspire those students to pursue research careers in cardiovascular, pulmonary and hematologic disease disciplines.

"By building self-confidence, we can foster the students' participation in health-related research, which facilitates their progression into health-related professions and addresses some of the problems associated with diversity and health disparities," Crockett said.

For many decades, little attention was given to diversity and the disparities that exist in health-related research and clinical practice in the United States.

"This was especially true for individuals who suffer disproportionately from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and cancer, among other conditions, yet rarely were represented in research," she said.

Despite attempts to address the problem, including a 1993 NIH requirement for clinical trials to include women and minorities, large gaps remain in knowledge and in practice, Crockett said. As a result, racial and ethnic minorities continue to have higher rates of disease, disability and premature death than non-minorities.

As part of the program, 16 students will be recruited: four undergrads students and 12 health professional students (medical, public health and nursing students). They will be exposed to team mentoring and research training by mentors across campus, an introductory biomedical research course and a summer hands-on research experience. The students will receive stipend as well as financial assistance to attend a biomedical conference.

"The strength of the program is an emphasis on direct interaction with mentors and graduate students," Crocket said.

Participating colleges include Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Nursing, Communication Arts and Science, Natural Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and the Graduate School. Francesca Dwamena of the Department of Medicine is a co-investigator on the project.

For more information, contact Crockett at repid@msu.edu.

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