Many underrepresented minority (URM) STEM students that declare as “premed” at UCLA are motivated to become physicians to help fix health disparities that they experienced within their largely minority communities. However, most of these students will not finish their STEM degrees and fewer still will matriculate into medical school. The proposed HHMI Diversity and Health Disparities Program at UCLA is a yearlong support program for entering URM premed students with a passion for medicine and health disparities.
The program begins with a seminar series focused on how the environment can shape health disparities and the diversity of scientific disciplines addressing these issues. Next, students explore the breadth of research at UCLA focused on the environmental determinants of health through the creation of short documentary films. The program concludes with a research practicum where students conceive, design and execute group research projects focused on environmental variables contributing to health disparities.
By creating a supportive and collaborative community that fosters students’ passion for solving health disparities, this program will help maintain students’ commitment to STEM majors during a vulnerable period when they are most likely to leave science, increasing URM STEM persistence.