The goal of the Mayo Clinic Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) is to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented groups who choose biomedical research careers. We are motivated by the concept that a diverse research environment fosters more innovative research than a homogeneous environment. Many training programs seek to enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. However, few of these programs emphasize the translational research linkage between basic science and improved health. Biomedical research training programs for diverse students often fail to emphasize practical development of the leadership skills actually required for successful careers in biomedical research. The Mayo Clinic Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) bridges these two gaps by preparing learners from underrepresented (UR) groups for successful matriculation and completion of research-intensive biomedical science PhD programs. During the next funding cycle, we will maintain the 22-year success of our program while increasing recruitment of UR students, improving mentorship experiences, and providing leadership skills. Indeed, 22 years of experience have guided the optimization of these elements. Specific aims: Aim 1. Recruit and retain UR learners (nine total per year) into basic science or translational research programs at Mayo Clinic while achieving a 75% matriculation rate into PhD or MD-PhD programs. Since its origin in 2006, the Mayo PREP has recruited and trained 63 post-baccalaureate UR learners. Forty-three (68%) matriculated into competitive PhD or MD-PhD programs. Of those students, 95% successfully completed a doctoral degree or are on track to do so. We will continue to recruit and train learners through our proven curriculum with its focus on intensive enrichment activities toward individualized academic and professional development. We will maintain objective program evaluation by leveraging self- assessment tools and surveys such as the Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment. We will use pre-entrance surveys to identify the needs of each learner and craft an appropriate plan to ensure timely learner success. We will provide access to tutors and will encourage participation in Mayo Clinic?s institutional resource groups (MERG) to assist in learner retention. We will facilitate networking by weekly structured meetings and quarterly meetings in a social setting with graduate students and faculty from UR groups. We hypothesize that these tactics will continue to be effective in increasing the number of UR learners entering PhD programs. Aim 2. Develop a pathway that cultivates successful long-term mentor-mentee relationships to facilitate successful research careers. Individual development plans (IDPs) have been used to identify gaps in research experiences and develop strategies for addressing these gaps. However, IDPs can be inadequate if not accompanied by diligent follow-up with accountability and adjustments in a changing research environment. We will therefore implement Post-baccalaureate Advisory Committees (PACs). Each PAC will involve the research mentor, program director, and at least one UR faculty member. The PAC will develop an individualized plan for launching the learner into a successful career. The PAC will identify and discuss career goals, analyze experience gaps, plan educational activities, verify career milestones, and propose approaches for addressing professional needs. This structure will emulate a graduate student thesis advisory committee. We hypothesize that PACs will lead to improved long-term mentor-mentee relationships that will facilitate (greater than 90%) retention of former PREP PhD graduates in biomedical sciences research. Aim 3. Create a platform for developing critical thinking and leadership skills outside of the classroom and laboratory setting. In 2016 the Mayo Clinic PREP pioneered its biennial Scientific Innovations Through Diverse Perspectives (SITDP) conference, completely organized by students to promote development of practical leadership skills not taught in the classroom or laboratory. The pilot was so successful that it has now been adopted by multiple institutions. We will continue to develop this successful platform that develops teamwork, teaching learners to work together with diverse individuals who have different objectives, points of view, and personalities. This platform provides opportunities to broaden professional networks, and discuss career paths with leaders in academia, industry, law, science policy, science writing, and other fields. We will also encourage learners to participate in Mayo Graduate School?s entrepreneurial course involving individuals from different academic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds to develop a product that can be used to change the life of a patient population. We hypothesize that exposure to these opportunities will lead to the development of critical skills for becoming leaders in the biomedical sciences.
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