Enhancing biomedical training and diversity through a Hispanic science network

Investigator: Ronald D. Vale, PhD
Sponsor: Yale University

Location(s): United States


Latinos are the fastest growing U.S. demographic, but remain substantially underrepresented in biomedical careers. Research suggests that minority participation in science is hindered by social factors (lack of same-ethnicity role models and peer support), gaps in career development information and networks, and limited opportunities to contribute with science to their communities of origin. Academic institutions are not well equipped to confront these problems due to low minority representation. We propose to apply an established and dynamic Hispanic science network, the Yale-sponsored Ciencia Puerto Rico initiative, with more than 6,800 scientific members, to enhance the training and retention of minority graduate students in science. Specifically, we will utilize a social network approach to:

1) create online learning communities that close the geographic gap between graduate students and role models, mentors, and peers from similar cultural backgrounds;

2) provide training that addresses common gaps and provides skills for professional development;and

3) enable trainees to contribute through their science to their community of origin.

A minimum of 40 graduate students will participate per year in the Yale-CienciaPR IPERT project. Activities will include online conversations with successful Hispanic scientist mentors;moderated peer group discussions on topics of academic and professional development;and workshops on topics such as being a proactive mentee, defining and working towards professional goals through individual development plans, scientific communication skills, and becoming an effective teacher. Participants will also have the opportunity to impact Hispanic communities through the publication of science articles or podcasts or visits of local schools. An annual meeting will cement the sense of community an extend opportunities for networking and professional development. Based on established career development theories and proven diversity interventions, this innovative experience will complement institutional research training programs and is expected to result in (i) enhanced feelings of competency in science and positive expectations for a scientific career;(ii) larger and more focused individual professional networks;(iii) competency in important academic and professional skills;and (iv) awareness of social value as scientists. An evaluation plan consisting of pre- and post-intervention assessments and control group comparisons will help determine results. In the long-term, the program is expected to increase retention in science and thus increase diversity across the scientific enterprise.