The Equity Summer Research Program recently culminated with students presenting a scientific oral presentation of their research project in front of an audience, which included their peers, parents, and OHSU faculty mentors. With projects that included the investigation of heart abnormalities, cancer treatment and binge-drinking behavior, this year’s Equity program covered an expansive range of science.
Now in its fifth year, the Equity program offers college students from a variety of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and regions, the opportunity to spend eight to 10 weeks working with OHSU faculty and graduate students in a research setting. The program is sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs*, and open to college undergraduate students who have faced and overcome significant economic disadvantages.
This year, a diverse group of 14 students participated in the program, representing universities from eight states. Eleven of the scholars were women, and the group’s ethnicities include African-American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, European and multi-racial.
“The Equity program is a pipeline to academically promising students who may not have had the opportunity to previously work in a lab,” said Leslie Garcia, OHSU Vice-Provost for Diversity. “We hope this summer’s experience broadens their understanding of careers in medicine to include research at an academic institution like OHSU.”
In addition to gaining hands-on experience in a lab, Equity scholars are given ongoing, personal mentoring about their individual career pathway from OHSU faculty, thus elevating their candidacy for pursuing master's and PhD degrees in scientific biomedical research.
“The students learn what the requirements are to apply to a graduate studies program,” said Ebony Lawrence, Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator. “Based on statistics we have gathered, they leave the program with a much better understanding of how the process works. We hope these students eventually apply and matriculate to OHSU.”
In the past, participants were typically focused on pursuing advanced degrees in biomedical science. This year, the program expanded to include an MD track for undergraduate students interested in becoming physicians. While the focus of the Equity program remains on research, accepting potential MD students exposes them to OHSU research programs, in particular the dual MD/PhD program, where students are trained to pursue careers as physician-scientists.
“The great success of this year’s Equity program could not have been achieved without the support of faculty mentors,” said Leslie Garcia. “They provide the teaching and leadership necessary for these students to leave campus with a better understanding of what their futures will hold.”
Pictured: (Top) Equity Summer Research Program students and coordinators; (Bottom) Mayen Dada
STUDENT FOCUS: MIA RADIC
Mia Radic, a sophomore at Northeastern University worked under the guidance of faculty mentor Gene Bowman, ND, Department of Neurology, on a project that attempted to learn more about how Alzheimer's disease associates with other factors including lifestyle, diet and nutrition. The goal of the project was to investigate the correlation between trans fat and Alzheimer's disease.
“Knowing about how little research has been done in finding correlation between trans fat and Alzheimer's, we set up a cross-sectional study to examine their relationship,” said Mia Radic. She reported in her project description that by using food frequency surveys as well as plasma nutritional biomarker analysis, “we found a significant difference in mean levels of trans fat between individuals with and without cognitive impairment. As a result, we urged a prospective study design to further investigate this relationship.”
Mia’s summer schedule at OHSU kept her on the move. She met weekly with Dr. Bowman to refine the research hypothesis. She also participated in clinic rotations, clinic conference, and research study visits. Furthermore, she participated in a neuroscience journal club to learn from investigators, post docs and other graduate students.
Mia shared office space in the Layton Center and was provided with a computer designated for the project, where she wrote about her research project. Dr. Bowman met weekly with her in the Center laboratory and was available by email.
"Mia gained experience in how investigators tackle public health issues through rigorous application of research methods," said Dr. Bowman. "She is a bright student. I hope she maintains her interest in neurology and epidemiology. She would benefit from OHSU’s excellent programs in medicine, human investigations and public health and preventative medicine."
Pictured (left to right): Babett Lind, Mia Radic, Gene Bowman, N.D.