Author(s): Salto LM, Riggs ML, Delgado De Leon D, Casiano CA, De Leon M
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Abstract An urgent need exists for graduate and professional schools to establish evidence-based STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) pipeline programs to increase the diversity of the biomedical workforce. An untapped yet promising pool of willing participants are capable high school students that have a strong STEM interest but may lack the skills and the guided mentoring needed to succeed in competitive STEM fields. This study evaluates and compares the impact of the Loma Linda University (LLU) Summer Health Disparities Research Program on high school (HS) and undergraduate (UG) student participants. The primary focus of our summer research experience (SRE) is to enhance the research self-efficacy of the participants by actively involving them in a research project and by providing the students with personalized mentoring and targeted career development activities, including education on health disparities. The results of our study show that our SRE influenced terminal degree intent and increased participant willingness to incorporate research into future careers for both the HS and the UG groups. The quantitative data shows that both the HS and the UG participants reported large, statistically significant gains in self-assessed research skills and research self-efficacy. Both participant groups identified the hands-on research and the mentor experience as the most valuable aspects of our SRE and reported increased science skills, increased confidence in science ability and increased motivation and affirmation to pursue a science career. The follow-up data indicates that 67\% of the HS participants and 90\% of the UG participants graduated from college with a STEM degree; for those who enrolled in graduate education, 61\% and 43\% enrolled in LLU, respectively. We conclude that structured SREs can be highly effective STEM strengthening interventions for both UG and HS students and may be a way to measurably increase institutional and biomedical workforce diversity.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Journal of Health Education Research & Development