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NIH Grant Boosts Access to Portland State Health Studies

Portland State University has received a $24 million research and training grant from the National Institutes of Health to help underrepresented students pursue careers in public health.

Crespo and students

[Photo: Dr. Carlos Crespo talks to PSU students Mr. Alan Keys and Ms. Catalina Urrutia-Jorde]

The grant, the biggest of its kind for PSU, offers a wide range of tuition aid, internships, mentoring, and other assistance to diverse students interested in biomedical, behavioral, social or clinical research, and other health sciences.

Among those targeted for assistance are high school seniors who are Latino, Pacific Islander, Alaska native, African-American, Native American, low income, raised in foster care, or who have a disability.

“This touches many of PSU’s priorities,” says public health professor Dr. Carlos Crespo, who spearheaded the program that qualified for the grant.

It promotes access, one of PSU’s key missions. It also requires PSU to work closely with area community colleges and with Oregon Health & Science University, which is a partner on the grant.

And it fosters greater interest in STEM academics, both in high school and at PSU, Dr. Crespo says.

Dr. Crespo directs PSU’s School of Community Health, and is one of the main overseers of PSU’s EXITO program, or Enhancing Cross-disciplinary Infrastructure Training at Oregon.

“We tend to work in silos,” Dr. Crespo says about university academics. “This promotes collaboration among many different disciplines on campus.”

The effort to attract diverse students into health sciences makes sense.

“One of our major efforts is to eliminate health care disparities,” he says. Bolstering the number of underrepresented students in health sciences programs is a step toward that goal, Dr. Crespo says.