Outreach Programs of Cell Biology

Careers in Science and Medicine

Dr. Douglas Robinson created the cross-campus program called the Johns Hopkins Initiative for Careers in Science and Medicine (CSM).  The goals of the CSM Initiative are to provide opportunities for individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds to pursue careers in science and medicine.  The health and biomedical research workforce will become truly diversified when socioeconomic barriers are overcome, allowing individuals from all backgrounds to become members and leaders of their fields. Focused opportunities must be provided for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the major challenge is to ensure that individuals with interest and passion also have the skills required to succeed at each level of training.  The program strives to meet these challenges through our CSM pipeline initiative that is currently funded, in part, by a Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  It also receives support from the Thomas Wilson Foundation, United Way of Central Maryland, and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Program Summary. The program has a pipeline that develops students (‘scholars’) from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds into successful professionals. The scholars specifically have an interest in pursuing health care, biomedical and STEM careers.  Many are already pursuing training for these career paths, but require additional educational development and mentorship to ensure that they are ready for doctoral level programs at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and elsewhere.  To expand the pool of successful professionals, it is necessary to develop scholars beginning at a younger age; therefore, the pipeline extends from high school to undergraduate to post-baccalaureate levels.  Next year, the program is also bringing the Fun with Science Camp for 5th graders into the CSM Initiative.

To be economically disadvantaged, scholars come from households with incomes <200% of the federal poverty limit, though many scholars fall well below the poverty limit.  To be educationally disadvantaged, scholars must be first generation college and/or have been directed to high schools with greater than 50% of the student body on the Free and Reduced Meals program (FARM; most scholars come from schools with >~95% of the students on FARM).  Many also come from households characterized by one or more of the following: single parent household, parent struggling with addiction or incarceration, abuse at home, or homelessness.  To identify high school scholars, the program works with several close partnering organizations in Baltimore (e.g. Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, SEED School of Maryland, Green Street Academy, Baltimore City College, Dunbar High School, and Baltimore Polytechnic High School).  The program conducts national searches for the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate arms.

The program is structured to develop scholars’ hard academic and technical skills, professionalism, and a list of tangible accomplishments.  It achieves these goals through mentored research and structured academic training.  It draws upon JHU scientific enterprise, endowed with phenomenal doctoral and postdoctoral trainees, staff, and faculty to deliver the programs.  It provides exposure to role models who are highly successful underrepresented in science or medicine faculty physician scientists and scientists.  It also provides preparation for standardized tests to aid scholars as they seek admission into medical and graduate school.

Annually, the pipeline initiative is geared to serve ~30 high school students through the Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE; http://sare.cellbio.jhmi.edu) and Biophysics Research for Baltimore Teens (BRBT; http://pmb.jhu.edu/brbt/index.html).  The program also serves 16 undergraduates through the HCOP Summer Internship Program (HCOP SIP) and 10 post-baccalaureate scholars through the Doctoral Diversity Program (DDP). Scholars are compensated with a stipend that makes it financially feasible for them to participate; however, the stipends must be earned and the bar is set high.  With the one-week Fun with Science Camp, it will serve an additional ~20 5th graders per year, all of whom are from inner city Baltimore.

The programs are making strides (see Appendix 12: Outcomes of Outreach Programs).  Of the nearly 100 high school-level scholars, nearly all who have reached college age have entered college, and >50% have chosen STEM or healthcare-related career paths.  The post-baccalaureate students have been accepted into MD and MD-PhD programs at a variety of institutions, including Stanford, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Emory, Vanderbilt, University of Chicago, Albert Einstein, Tufts, Mayo Arizona, Washington University in St. Louis, Brown University, and Ohio State.  The scholars currently have a 50% matriculation rate into MD or MD/PhD programs among the DDP scholars.  The remaining are pursuing PhD programs, other allied health professions, such as dentistry, or other biomedical research career paths.

NIH-funded Hopkins PREP (Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program)

Dr. Wilson revamped and currently directs the PREP program which is funded by NIH (R25 GM109441). This program is for underrepresented minority (URM) college graduates who are passionate about PhD or MD/PhD careers, and would benefit substantially from a year of intensive research and mentoring. PREP programs are highly competitive; our admissions committee receives 120-140 applications from students nationwide each year, for 5 positions. Our goal for each PREP scholar is to create an inter-generational scientific mentoring community that strengthens their long-term success in diverse PhD careers including biomedical faculty positions at Hopkins and nationwide. This program taps a major underrepresented pool of scientific talent that is critical for American leadership in basic biomedical research as well as government, law, advisory, biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Indeed the leadership of Johns Hopkins SOM provides yearly support, in addition to NIH funds, crucial for the success of this program.

To prepare these promising young scientists for entry and long-term success in rigorous PhD or MSTP training programs, PREP training has five main components: Research, Community, Project Meetings, Professional Training and Personal Growth. Research: Scholars visit Hopkins for two days in April to interview with at least four potential mentors of interest and meet with members of their lab. The PREP Director then ‘matches’ each scholar, based on detailed feedback from each faculty and the scholar. After initial training, scholars are expected to design, conduct and analyze hypothesis-driven experiments. Scholars also participate alongside PhD students and postdocs in lab meetings, journal clubs and departmental research seminars, and have funding to present their results at a national conference. Community: Scholars meet each month for two-hour “Chalk-Talk” events with an outstanding team of URM PhD students and postdoctoral fellows who actively serve as Peer Mentors. Scholars give three chalk-talks their first year to get comfortable discussing their research informally, thinking on their feet, receiving scientific feedback and asking questions.

One highly innovative feature of Hopkins PREP is our Project Meetings, which scholars convene three times during their first year. Project Meetings are very similar to PhD thesis meetings, but with shorter timeframes. Scholars consult with their mentor, prepare a written summary of their current results and experimental plans for the next 3~4 months, and present this proposal to a faculty committee for scientific feedback. This committee comprises their PI, the PREP Director, and two additional faculty members with relevant expertise. These meetings accelerate each PREP scholar’s evolution and confidence as scientists and foster long-term collegial interactions with other Hopkins faculty. Moreover, experiencing three or more Project Meetings before they enter graduate school also removes the apprehension many PhD students feel about their first PhD thesis meeting.

To augment their Professional Training, scholars are trained in Research Ethics twice each year, participate in workshops to improve communication and inter-personal skills (Meyers-Briggs Type), and NSF graduate research fellowship workshop, and other workshops offered by the Professional Development Office. However true Personal Growth requires customized mentoring by the PREP Director, who creates an Individual Development Plan (IDP) for each scholar, meets with each scholar monthly and whenever needed to assess progress, and teaches writing and editing workshops each Fall and Spring, used by scholars to hone their personal and scientific statements for applications to graduate school, NSF graduate fellowship applications or research manuscripts.

Outcomes. For program success, as defined by NIH, at least 75% of scholars must enter PhD or MD/PhD programs within two years of starting PREP. Medical school alone, is failure. Our success rate is 92%, based on current outcomes for 15 NIH-funded scholars and 2 mentor-funded scholars (see below): 12 of 13 PREP scholars who applied so far, entered top graduate programs nationwide within two years. This program also directly benefits Hopkins faculty campus-wide (SOM, A&S, SPH) via access to highly motivated fulltime researchers, many of whom author or co-author a paper(s) in their PREP lab.

PREP scholars are also positively impacting the Baltimore/DC region. Chelsy Eddings and Adriana Landeros, sponsored by PREP Mentor Tamara O’Connor (Dept. Biological Chemistry), did something innovative: they collaborated with a Univ Maryland Baltimore student to create the first ‘dual-campus’ chapter of SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science), aiming to foster cultural inclusion and help recruit and retain Latino and Native American students in the Baltimore and Washington DC area. http://sacnas.org/team-details/johns-hopkins-medical-institute-university-of-maryland-baltimore/  Chelsy Eddings will continue building this program as a PhD student in the BCMB program at Johns Hopkins, starting in Fall 2018.