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Health Center Awarded $1.6 Million for Outreach to Minority High School Students
December 6, 1999

A $1.6 million grant to the UConn Health Center will help a coalition of educators reach minority and disadvantaged students at a pivotal time in their lives - ninth and tenth grades - and help them prepare for college and careers in medicine and other health-related fields.

The Health Professions Partnership Initiative was formed in 1996, in response to a nationwide call to address the shortage of students from minority and underrepresented groups in the health professions.

The Initiative includes educators from the UConn Health Center, the University's Storrs campus, Wesleyan University, Central Connecticut State University, high schools in New Britain and Hartford, and the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program.

"The HPPI is working with students, teachers and parents to develop an ongoing pool of minority and underrepresented students who will go into medicine, dentistry, biomedical research, nursing, pharmacy and allied health professions," says Boake Plessy, an assistant dean of the Health Center and program director of the Initiative.

"This grant will help us reach students at younger ages by starting formal programs in the ninth and tenth grades," he says.

The three-year, $1.6 million grant is the second award the Health Center has received for the program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The first grant, in 1996, was for $780,000. The project also receives support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The grant will build on the Initiative's existing activities, including summer research apprenticeships for students in high school through graduate school levels; annual "Mini Medical and Dental School" programs for high school students at the Health Center; and curriculum and staff development programs for teachers. The Initiative will also continue to work closely with the Health Professions Center of Excellence at Bulkeley High School in Hartford.

"The great strength of this program comes from all of the partners working together and creating a 'pipeline' of students from high school through college and professional schools," says Marja Hurley, an associate dean at the Health Center and co-director of the program.

The Initiative is part of a national program known as Project 3000 by 2000 that was launched by the Association of American Medical Colleges to increase the number of minority and underrepresente d students applying to U.S. medical schools.

"This program responded to the AAMC's call with grassroots, creative and effective ways to reach students," says Peter J. Deckers, dean of the UConn School of Medicine. "We're proud of every success story this program has fostered."

The Initiative has set the following goals for the next three years:

  • Identify 45 disadvantaged ninth and tenth graders from targeted districts in Hartford and New Britain, and demonstrate significant increases in the number of these students enrolled in college-prep classes math and science classes.

  • Provide teachers, counselors and parents with additional resources to motivate students to perform well in college-prep programs.

  • Increase the retention of disadvantaged students who enter college interested in health-related careers, by providing for sound development of scientific, mathematical, communications, problem-solving and study skills.

  • Increase retention of participants in pre-professional programs so that at least 34 students (75 percent) will complete their undergraduate program, with at least 30 (67 percent) going on to medical, dental or other health professional programs.

  • Facilitate the entry of 25 student participants into medical and dental schools by improving their performance on the admissions tests.

  • Increase the admission of African-American and Hispanic applicants to the UConn School of Medicine by at least seven students per year by providing post-baccalaureate training.

  • Increase the admission of African-American and Hispanic applicants to the UConn School of Dental Medicine by at least five students per year through affiliations with Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, which offer the joint BS/DMD degrees.

  • Establish a retention rate of 95 percent among program participants in professional schools.

  • Establish and maintain a retention rate of 100 percent among students from disadvantaged backgrounds who matriculate at the UConn Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine.

To reach these goals, the Initiative will work closely with the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program as it launches new initiatives, including a Summer Science Camp and a Saturday Academy for 45 students from the ninth and tenth grades.

Maureen McGuire