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Grant to Attract Health Care Professionals to Benefit Local Students

By Carla O'Day
Published: Last Updated on

Area high school students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare who are bilingual in English and Spanish are expected to benefit from a grant recently awarded to the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR).

The 5-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will help to establish a pipeline of bilingual students interested in exploring science, technology, engineering, and math-related fields (STEM).

“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.”

According to the Association of Medical Colleges, 27.5 percent of Nevada’s population identifies as Hispanic, but only 3.4 percent of physicians in the state identify as Hispanic. UNR 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.

“We are grateful to the university for its support of our students who are working toward careers in STEM-healthcare,” said Kristen McNeill, Washoe County School District deputy superintendent. “We know the importance of having trained professionals in health care is critical to our region. This grant will offer our bilingual and bi-cultural students a great opportunity to pursue their dreams and serve our community.”

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.

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