Increasing representation and diversity in health research: A protocol of the MYHealth research training program for high school students

Published:2023, Plos One
Volume 18 Issue 9
Authors:Samantha A Chuisano, Jane Rafferty, Alison Allen, Tammy Chang, Matthew Diemer, Kara Harris, Lisa M Vaughn, Daphne C Watkins, Melissa DeJonckheere

Research careers, schools, careers, research design, survey research, human learning, surveys, research assessment

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Despite decades of calls for increased diversity in the health research workforce, disparities exist for many populations, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color individuals, those from low-income families, and first-generation college students. To increase representation of historically marginalized populations, there is a critical need to develop programs that strengthen their path toward health research careers. High school is a critically important time to catalyze interest and rebuild engagement among youth who may have previously felt excluded from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and health research careers.

The overall objective of the MYHealth program is to engage high school students in a community-based participatory research program focused on adolescent health. Investigators will work alongside community partners to recruit 9th through 12th graders who self-identify as a member of a group underrepresented in STEM or health research careers (e.g., based on race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, first generation college student, disability, etc.). MYHealth students are trained to be co-researchers who work alongside academic researchers, which will help them to envision themselves as scientists capable of positively impacting their communities through research. Implemented in three phases, the MYHealth program aims to foster a continuing interest in health research careers by developing: 1) researcher identities, 2) scientific literacy, 3) scientific self-efficacy, and 4) teamwork and leadership self-efficacy. In each phase, students will build knowledge and skills in research, ethics, data collection, data analysis, and dissemination. Students will directly collaborate with and be mentored by a team that includes investigators, community advisors, scientific advisors, and youth peers.

Each year, a new cohort of up to 70 high school students will be enrolled in MYHealth. We anticipate the MYHealth program will increase interest and persistence in STEM and health research among groups that have been historically excluded in health research careers.