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Over the last two decades, the Four Directions Summer Research Program (FDSRP) and the BWH Summer Training in Academic Research and Scholarship (STARS) Program have provided invaluable experience to nearly 200 college students interested in health and science careers.
Both programs are marking significant milestones this summer. FDSRP, geared toward college students of Native American descent, is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the BWH STARS Program, serving underrepresented minority undergraduates and first-year medical students, is marking five years.
"It's quite the accomplishment and speaks volumes about our level of commitment to these students, who will be tomorrow's key players in helping eliminate health care disparities," said Barbara Bierer, MD, Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (CFDD) director and senior vice president of Research.
FDSRP students join BWH for eight weeks during the summer to engage in basic science or translational research projects under the supervision of BWH and Harvard Medical School advisors. The BWH STARS Program, also an eight-week summer program, involves students in intensive hands-on training in research methods in the labs of BWH. Both programs are administered by BWH's Office for Multicultural Faculty Careers (OMC) in the CFDD and supported by the National Institutes of Health and private foundations.
As part of the FDSRP's celebration, program alumni traveled back to Boston for a two-day summit where they met current students and attended a networking event, symposium, panel discussion and gala.
"The Four Directions Summer Research Program put me on the right track to achieve my career goals because it gave me an opportunity," said Daniel Joseph Calac, MD, chief medical officer for the Indian Health Council in San Diego, who was an invited panelist during the event's symposium and participated in the first year of the program in 1994. "Those opportunities are often rare growing up on a Native American Reservation."
FDSRP was also a key step for Ojistoh Kahnawahere Horn, MSc, MD, in achieving her career goals. "I wanted to go to medical school, but I didn't know how to do it," said Horn, who completed the program in 1996 and is now a physician in Quebec. "Growing up on my reservation, I never knew any physicians or had any mentors."
Not all participants go into medicine; some decide to follow research paths and even become mentors themselves to help students in the same way FDSRP helped them.
"After leaving the program, all I wanted to do was give back," said James Lamouche, director of Research at Blue Quills First Nations College, who now runs a similar program at Blue Quills.
The younger BWH STARS Program, which began in 2008, celebrated its fifth anniversary on June 26 with a luncheon and a presentation by Joan Reede, MD, MS, MPH, MBA, dean for Diversity and Community Partnership at Harvard Medical School.
The BWH STARS Program's enrollment has nearly doubled since its start. Most recently, it has begun a unique collaboration with the Jackson Heart Study, the largest single-site, prospective, epidemiologic investigation of cardiovascular disease among African-Americans. This partnership brings students from Tougaloo College and University of Mississippi Medical College to BWH to advance their research skills.
Four Directions Summer Research Program (FDSRP) alumni Brittany Gene, Joseph Nelson, Desiree Jones and Christopher Danny reunite at FDSRP's two-day summit.