This training program engages students in research on problems that disproportionately affect children in developing countries and poor/minority children in the U.S. Student research experiences occur in conjunction with ongoing studies of UM faculty and faculty members at the foreign sites, and last 12 weeks during the summer months (early/mid May to early August) for undergraduate and Masters level trainees; however the entire MHRT experience generally takes about a year. For PhD and Post-Doctoral trainees, the training experience may be longer and take place outside of the summer months. To promote the training of students from health disparities backgrounds and to encourage them to pursue biomedical and behavioral research careers, the program offers opportunities for active participation in research on important questions. Pre-departure preparation covers child health inequalities, responsible conduct of research, culture and history of the host sites, potential stresses of a training experience in developing countries, and project-specific preparatory activities. With close mentoring in the U.S. and at the international sites, trainees are involved in the design of a study or subproject (if appropriate), collection, analysis, and interpretation of original data, and communication of the project in oral and written form. The program continues to foster trainee development upon return to the U.S. through career guidance, facilitation of further research placements, supervision of honors theses, doctoral dissertations, and other programs of independent study, and assistance in preparing manuscripts and presentations.
The projects address both physical health and psycho-educational issues, and builds on a well-established international collaborations. The research experiences may vary from basic science studies to community surveys or health policy research. Projects vary from year to year, but each project is connected to UM research that can provide opportunities for participant training before and/or after the international experience, and allows trainees to consider the connections to similar problems of poor or minority children in the U.S.
To ensure sufficient time for pre-departure preparation, we select undergraduate and Masters level trainees in December of the year preceding their summer international research experience. This timeframe allows the program to include promising students who require additional coursework or experience, such as a conversational Spanish class or involvement in a research study (for those with no prior research experience); and allows trainees to adjust their winter schedules to accommodate the pre-departure work. Preparatory training designed especially for this program is required of all trainees throughout the Winter term (January-April), and the international research experience is contingent on satisfactory completion. Preparation has 3 components: 1) orientation, 2) a seminar series for the entire group on disparities in child health, and 3) training specific to a particular research project and site. Doctoral and Post-Doctoral trainees may be selected in January or February for placements that begin later in the year.
Research Activities/Training at the Foreign Sites
Research activities and training vary depending on the project, but there are important commonalities to all training experiences in our program. Research training at each site begins with an orientation to the research setting, the local community, expectations of participation, etc. Trainees are directly involved with data collection as well as other research activities. There are regular research team/laboratory meetings associated with each project, and the foreign mentors meet individually with trainees at least weekly throughout training. Trainees maintain regular e-mail contact with the UM project supervisor, with phone calls as needed, throughout the summer. Trainees may spend one-half day/week on non-project activities (visiting homes or communities, shadowing physicians in patient care, volunteering, observing other research projects, etc.). With mentor guidance and protection of research time, trainees may attend relevant short courses, seminars, or lectures that occur at the host site. However, trainees are expected to spend a minimum of 70-80% of their time in research activities over the training period. Although sometimes two trainees are involved in research training at a given site, there is a range of research configurations, and the number of trainees/site is expected to vary each year. Trainees may work together on a project, on different projects, or on different aspects of the same project or a trainee may work in a basic science laboratory on a problem where the University of Michigan project is clinical.
Upon their return to the U.S., students complete the following requirements:
- follow up work on data/publication with mentor
- post-return questionnaire
- a written report of their project
- a description of an ethical problem/situation that was encountered during training
- written comments on their overall experience
- a poster presentation of their study
- participation in a panel discussion of issues relevant child health disparities or research in developing countries.