"The Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT)", Johis Ortega, PhD, PI

The aim of the MHIRT program is to encourage and equip undergraduate nursing, public health and health sciences students and second-degree undergraduate nursing (Accelerated BSN) students to pursue careers in Health Disparities (HD) research.

The two specific aims are to: 1) equip these students with the skills to conduct culturally competent, ethically responsible global HD research; and 2) provide students with mentorship and support that will ultimately make them more attractive to graduate schools and more likely to succeed as HD researchers. The training program has been strengthened by existing exchange agreements and by two existing centers of excellence at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies (UMSONHS) - The NIMHD-funded Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research: El Centro (2P60 MD002266) and The PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing Human Resources Development and Patient Safety. This infrastructure provides access to an existing network of nursing schools throughout the globe with which the UMSONHS has a strong history of collaboration in research and training. We have partnered with 5 institutions in 4 countries (Australia, Chile, Dominican Republic and Spain) - where the UMSONHS has established student study abroad programs and training/research agreements. The program supported 10 trainees (year 1) and is currently supporting 10 students (year 2). Students participate in a 3-week Intensive Global Health Disparities Summer Research Institute, immediately followed by an 8-week research experience in the host country. Students work closely with expert research mentors in the host country and at the UMSONHS during this time to participate in existing global health disparities research. Projects varied in content and populations. Various strategies have been designed to evaluate the program (e.g. pre/post- test surveys and focus groups to assess the impact the program had on professional development). Preliminary findings indicate that the number of students planning to pursue a PhD doubled after participation in the program. Students reported multiple benefits from the program that spanned across research competencies, personal development and transcultural experiences. The MHIRT appears to be a promising approach to attract undergraduate minority students into research careers.