Internship Program Exposes Undergrads to Minority Health Research

Posted in GUMC Stories

JULY 2, 2014 — A Georgetown internship program is offering D.C.-area undergraduates from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups a unique glimpse into the fields of minority health and health disparities research.

The Spring/Summer Opportunity for Achievement in Research-Minority Health and Health Disparities (SOAR-MHHD) Research Internship (new window) is open to racially and ethnically underrepresented college students. The internship offers funding, mentoring and didactic sessions and discussion groups with Georgetown University faculty.

Now in its second year, the SOAR-MHHD program is primarily sponsored by the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Health Disparities (CEHD) in the Nation’s Capital (new window). This initiative, funded by a $6.1-million grant from the National Institutes of Health, seeks to eliminate or dramatically reduce health disparities with a particular focus on racially and ethnically diverse populations at high risk for such disparities in Washington, D.C.

SOAR-MHHD receives additional support from Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (new window) (GHUCCTS), which also sponsors a sister program, SOAR-Health.

The internship program reflects one of the major priorities for these collaborations: training future leaders in the field.

“We hope the program exposes students to the excitement of health research and how it can be an important way to reach goals they may have,” says Bruno Anthony, PhD (new window), co-director of the research, training and education core of CEHD. Anthony is also director of research and evaluation at Georgetown’s Center for Child and Human Development (new window) (GUCCHD) and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC).

Through a Cultural Lens

Brian Clark, a rising senior at The Catholic University of America (new window) in northeast D.C., is one of this year’s SOAR-MHHD interns.

Clark’s mentor is Tawara D. Goode (new window), assistant professor of pediatrics at GUMC, associate director of GUCCHD and director of the National Center for Cultural Competence (new window). Clarke is working with Goode and other colleagues on a project called “The Legacy of Research in Culturally Diverse Communities: Acknowledging our Past … Shaping our Future.” They refer to it simply as “Truth and Reconciliation.”

For Clark, whose was raised in the U.S. but whose family comes from Panama, the project is helping him understand more about the need for cultural awareness and cultural competence in research.

“I witnessed a lot of prejudicial attitudes while growing up,” Clark says. “A lot of work still needs to be done in increasing cultural awareness and competency in our country, and I’m happy to help bring about this change in whatever degree I can.”

Goode says Clark’s enthusiasm for the subject matter is apparent.

“Brian has varied experiences from his family of origin, an inclusive world view, and a thirst for knowledge to improve the lives of populations that are marginalized and underserved,” Goode says.

Truth and Reconciliation

Goode’s project is designed to discover if “truth and reconciliation” community forums can reduce barriers to participation in research by underserved racial and ethnic groups.

Through these forums, researchers seek to acknowledge past injustices and exploitation committed by researchers and research institutions; foster reconciliation with the communities that have been victimized; increase awareness of safeguards to protect the rights of research participants; and identify strategies to reduce barriers and increase participation in research that will aid in efforts to decrease health disparities.

Clark’s role in the project is to analyze quantitative and qualitative data from the community forums.

“The [internship] gives students an opportunity to be a part of groundbreaking research being done within the health care system,” says Clark. “On top of that, it’s done through the lens of minority communities. This kind of research not only benefits the communities you’re researching, but your development as a competent researcher as well.”

Shaping Future Researchers

As Clark’s mentor, Goode provides academic support and direct guidance on his research project.

“I am incredibly fortunate to have secured a mentorship with Ms. Goode,” says Clark. “Her door has always been open to chat about anything and she’s connected me with some prominent researchers around the country.”

This year, seven students from five schools are participating in SOAR-MHHD internship. Among them is an undergraduate human science major (new window) from Georgetown’s School of Nursing & Health Studies (new window).

Beemnet Neway (NHS’16), a pre-med student, says she was drawn to the program because of its emphasis on health disparities.

“Through the program, I plan to further my understanding of how clinical and translational research is carried out to meet communities in need,” Neway says. “I hope to take the skills from this experience to increase dialogue about minority health issues on campus.”

The program described is administered through the Center of Excellence for Health Disparities in the Nation’s Capital and funded by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (Grant # 1P60MD006920-01). Students also receive funding through Georgetown University.

By Sarah Reik
GUMC Communications