Health researchers trying to get more minority investigators involved

Health researchers from nearly a dozen states are set to gather in Madison to tackle a complicated issue: how to increase the number of minority researchers studying health inequalities.

Gaps in health care access persist nationwide, and reports come out every year that show Wisconsin is no different. The state Department of Health Services says all racial and ethnic minorities in Wisconsin experience disparities — both in health risk behaviors like smoking, and in many health outcomes.

To properly respond to the various factors at play, researchers are trying to get more minority investigators involved, as they are currently underrepresented. That’s according to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, which is hosting the ninth annual Health Equity Leadership Institute program this month at UW-Madison.

“These investigators often face unique obstacles to their research success, including feelings of loneliness and isolation, difficulty securing research funding and research mentoring and limited research collaboration opportunities,” said Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, director of the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research’s Collaborative Center for Health Equity.

To help them clear those hurdles, HELI will prepare participants for placement in schools focused on public health and other medical disciplines. It’s also meant to guide them toward research funding from the National Institutes of Health, and connect them to a national network of professionals.

Educational sessions will be led by Wisconsin and Maryland scholars who currently work in African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, White, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hmong and low-income communities.

Discussions will spotlight good examples of community-engaged research that target health disparities in Wisconsin.

James Butler, one of the core faculty members of HELI since 2010, says “people come to HELI with some wounds, but they are leaving with a healing.”

He says the institute gives them a chance to connect with others who’ve experienced racism and other barriers in their professional careers, to know they’re not alone.

HELI is hosted by the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research’s Collaborative Center for Health Equity, as well as the Maryland Center for Health Equity in the School of Public Health at University of Maryland, College Park.

It will be held next week on the UW-Madison campus beginning Monday, with scientists from 11 states expected to attend. A reception to welcome incoming researchers will take place Tuesday, June 12 at Memorial Union in Madison.

Register for the reception here:

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