James L. Caffrey, PhD, a researcher at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, is one of 10 U.S. educators honored as mentor role models by Minority Access, Inc.
Dr. Caffrey, professor of integrative physiology and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the health science center, received the award for his efforts to increase the pool of minority researchers.
Minority Access is a non-profit educational organization that supports individuals, institutions, government agencies and corporations of all kinds to diversify their campuses and work sites by improving recruitment, retention and enhancement of minorities. Minority Access works with the National Institutes of Health to identify institutional and individual role models for their efforts fostering the development of researchers from minority and disadvantaged communities, particularly in the biomedical sciences.
Dr. Caffrey has helped develop elementary, high school, college, graduate and professional programs to improve minority participation in science and medicine. He has been involved in mentoring more than 300 minority students at the health science center.
"Dr. Caffrey has over 20 years experience seeking out minority students and bringing them into his lab," said Robert Kaman, JD, PhD, assistant dean and director of outreach for UNTHSC's Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
UNT Health Science Center conducts extensive kindergarten through college programs where students can gain information about the biomedical sciences and experience in research. These outreach programs aim to increase the numbers of under-represented and disadvantaged students entering graduate programs in the biomedical sciences. Each summer, participating students receive hands-on experience in an actual lab atmosphere under the guidance of graduate students and faculty researchers.
Dr. Caffrey said, "a dedicated team approach to our programs is what really makes them work." He said the outreach programs use a variety of strategies to try to increase the number of scientists from minority and disadvantaged communities. "A lot of prospective students are unaware of all the channels that are available for obtaining a graduate education in the biomedical sciences."
These and similar programs have resulted in a student body with about 20 percent under-represented minorities in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and 30 percent in the School of Public Health, Dr. Kaman said.
"We're moving toward a more equitable distribution reflective of the population in Fort Worth and roughly Texas," he said.
Dr. Caffrey's award is further recognition of the health science center's ongoing efforts to encourage more students to enter science-related careers.
In 2001, Minority Access named the health science center one of its role model institutions, and the National Science Foundation honored it with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. Last year, the health science center received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to place its graduate students into high school biology classrooms and provide local science teachers with additional development opportunities. The grant seeks to increase the number of high school students who pursue a career in the biomedical sciences.
Representatives from major research universities, combined with their counterparts from historically black and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities, attended the Minority Access conference in Washington, D.C. Sept. 13-15, 2002.
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