University Grant to Attract Healthcare Professionals Benefits WCSD Students

Health Science Students Learn at Hug High SchoolReno, NV (January 23, 2018) —  Washoe County School District (WCSD) students who are bilingual in English and Spanish and want to pursue careers in healthcare will benefit from a five year $1.25 million National Institutes of Health grant awarded to the University of Nevada, Reno. The focus of the grant is to establish a pipeline of bilingual high school students interested in exploring science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-healthcare fields including careers in biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research.

A Health Science student is interviewed by the news media“The overarching goal for this grant is to fill the Nevada healthcare employment pipeline with a more diverse population,” said Ruben Dagda, assistant professor of pharmacology at UNR School of Medicine and co-principal investigator for the grant. “This is a workforce development grant as much as it is an education grant.”

“We are grateful to the University for its support of our students who are working toward careers in STEM-healthcare,” said WCSD Deputy Superintendent Dr. Kristen McNeill. “We know the importance of having trained professionals in health care is critical to our region. This grant will offer our bilingual and bicultural students a great opportunity to pursue their dreams and serve our community.”

According to the Association of Medical Colleges, 27.5 percent of Nevada’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, but only 3.4 percent of physicians in the state identify as Hispanic or Latino. The University plans to recruit 30 to 45 bilingual high school students each year, targeting mid-junior-year students who are in the process of making career decisions. The first group will be identified this spring.

The project offers students ongoing mentorship, a three-week on-campus summer research program between their junior and senior years, along with support in advocating a career in healthcare. Once they are enrolled in the University, students will become leadership trainees for subsequent groups of high school students.

“One of our goals is to leverage the resources we have here at the University and out in the community,” Dagda said. “We’ve already partnered with the IDeA Network Biomedical Research Excellent for help recruiting students in the rural communities and have recruited professional mentors with careers in the healthcare arena.”

“As part of this project, we will build a leadership team, a Community of Practice, that contributes to the development and management of the program comprised of individuals who are most affected by the scope of the project,” said Jenica Finnegan, project coordinator for the grant. “We can leverage their knowledge, ideas, and expertise to help inform the project.”