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  March 3, 2003

Health Center Physician Honored By
New England Board Of Higher Education
By Kristina Goodnough

Dr. Marja Hurley has been selected by the New England Board of Higher Education as one of the first recipients of its New England Higher Education Excellence Award.

Hurley receives the award for her work as the founding director of the Health Professions Partnership Initiative, which provides enrichment and support for students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the health professions. The program has sent 206 students from underrepresented groups on to medical or dental school in the past 15 years.

Image: Dr. Marja Hurley with students.
Dr. Marja Hurley, standing at right, with students in the Health Professions Partnership Initiatve, a program at the Health Center to support minority students considering a career in the medical or dental professions.
Photo by Peter Morenus

"This program promotes collaboration and increased access to opportunities for underserved populations, a key mission of the New England Board of Higher Education," said Charlotte Stratton, director of communications for the board.

The board is a non-profit, congressionally authorized agency whose mission is to promote greater educational opportunities and services for residents of New England.

It launched the awards program this year to honor New England individuals and organizations that have shown exceptional leadership on behalf of higher education and the advancement of educational opportunity.

Hurley will receive the award along with Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The late Eleanor McMahon, who served as Rhode Island's Higher Education commissioner, will also be recognized.

The Health Professions Partnership Initiative, a collaboration between the Health Center, UConn-Storrs, Central Connecticut State University, Wesleyan University, and the Hartford school district, has established learning academies for small groups of students at Hartford's high schools.

The students in the academies take part in enrichment programs throughout the school year and during the summer, to help them improve their academic performance and broaden their interest in health care. They undertake research programs under the guidance of mentors during the summer, and receive coaching in math and science classes and in problem solving and language arts.

"Achieving diversity in the health professions is essential to improving the health status of the minority population in Connecticut," said

Hurley. "Our program aims to show these young people the long-term benefits and satisfaction of a career in health care and then provide them with the tools and resources they need to achieve it," she says.

Recently, the initiative has used grants from local foundations to expand its support to students in middle school. "We are building a pipeline that draws students from underrepresented groups into successful and rewarding health careers. The earlier we can reach these students, they more chance they have for success," said Hurley.

She said the award represents recognition not only for her but for Boake Plessy and others involved in the program.

The New England Board of Higher Education honored Hurley and other award recipients at a dinner in Boston February 28.

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