By Lori Lyn Lirio
THE innovative and highly experimental Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons program is a continuing success.
According to Minority Health Research Coordination director Dr. Lawrence Agodoa, about 85 to 90 percent of the students who participated in the Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons or STEP-UP have pursued science-and health-related courses in college.
Under the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases or NIH-NIDDK, STEP-UP program was first established in 1995. The target participants are high school and undergraduate students from racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research fields and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The program gives opportunities to underrepresented students a short-term research experience.
“We did preliminary analysis, 80 percent of students who participated in the program completed college and about 85 to 90 percent of these students stayed in science,” Dr. Agodoa said in an interview.
“This is the kind of result we want to see.”
He hopes that in a few years he would see many of these students pursue their Ph.D. and lead research about the diseases on the islands.
“We wanted to see them stay on research field, but many of them gravitate to medicine which is okay because the community needs doctors as well,” he added.
He said the program’s goal is to reduce and eliminate health disparities, expand research education and training opportunities for underrepresented minority scientists, and provide information to racial and minority groups about treatment, prevention, and self- management of diseases.
“These are the reasons why we started this program at stateside.”
The program was extended to the Pacific region in 2007.
According to Asap Ogumoro, PSS’ Science program coordinator, a total of 37 high school students participated in the program since it was introduced in the CNMI in 2011. He said the students are selected by a review committee form the NIDDK and the University of Hawaii from applicants from private and public high schools.
“They were assigned with experienced mentors to work on their research projects. The mentors are science teachers from local high schools, federal and local government agencies, as well as faculty from the Northern Marianas College,” Ogumoro said.
According to Dr. Agodoa, the NIH is in full support of the students interested in science and health research.
“We will make funds available for them to go as far as they want to go. They will decide how far they want to go and we will support them. We only ask to come back and help their community,” he said.