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Enhancing UNderGraduate Education and Research in AGing to Eliminate Health Disparities (ENGAGED)

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The Enhancing UNderGraduate Education and Research in AGing to Eliminate Health Disparities (ENGAGED) program will address the clear need to increase the diversity of biomedical scientists involved in aging research and the dearth of under-represented (UR) trainees in graduate programs in the biomedical sciences, particularly in aging-related fields. Given the strengths in research on aging at Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM) and in the existing didactic training in gerontology and aging-related topics at Wake Forest University (WFU) and Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), the ENGAGED Program Faculty (including Program Directors at WFSM, Co-Directors at WFU and WSSU) has vast academic and professional experiences; a history of collaborations for diversity-focused research and training programs; basic, clinical, population and translational research expertise and funding; and training program administration expertise. Thus, we are particularly well-positioned to offer training for undergraduate UR students to promote greater interest, exposure, and research experiences in the science of aging and health disparities in aging. The goals are to (1) increase awareness of the unique health care issues facing a diverse aging population and of the opportunities for research that addresses these issues and (2) expand opportunities for hands-on paid research internships at WFSM, WFU and WSSU during the academic year and during an 8-9 week summer session. These goals will be accomplished by ?gerontologizing? freshman seminars and introductory health science courses with lectures on topics relevant to aging; creating an ?ENGAGED Research Club? to foster a sense of community around the science of aging; providing a variety of educational activities, including field trips to research laboratories and geriatric clinics, real-world learning experiences in geriatric assessments and laboratory procedures, relevant workshops, seminars and journal clubs; and tracking trainee and program outcomes. Research internships will be offered under the direction of a diverse group of Research Mentors with expertise in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes/obesity, kidney function/disease, neuroscience, and physical function, offering trainees a wide variety of research opportunities in the field of aging. A network of Research and Career Mentors will provide formal and informal resources and counseling on career paths in age-related biomedical research, particularly PhD/advanced degrees, during and after the program. Of note, ~40% of training faculty are UR minorities, and many have research expertise and/or clinical experience addressing health disparities in aging populations. In sum, the proposed ENGAGED program offers several innovative approaches to preparing UR students for a career in research in the field of aging and takes advantage of unique strengths, existing infrastructure, and long-standing collaborations among diverse faculty at WFSM, WFU, and WSSU to ensure successful creation and implementation of the program. Sustainability past NIA funding is anticipated once courses are established and successful outcomes for trainees are evident.
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