Minority nursing students earn Ph.D. through ‘Bridges’ program

Minority Nursing Program

The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing is working to close the gap between supply and demand for minority nurse researchers in the biomedical and behavioral science fields.

Through its Bridges to the Doctorate for Underrepresented Minority Nursing program, the college provides opportunities for students at DePaul University and Purdue University Calumet to acquire skills that will enable them to transfer to UIC to earn Ph.D. degrees in nursing science.

The college will receive $650,000 from the National Institutes of Health to continue the program for the next three years. It was first offered in 2003 and was led by Mi Ja Kim, professor and dean emerita of the College of Nursing.

“Only 10 percent of our Ph.D. nursing students were underrepresented minority students prior to beginning the Bridges program,” said Linda Scott, associate dean for academic affairs and current project director. “Last year, more than 23 percent were African American and Hispanic students. This new grant will allow us to continue increasing those numbers.”

The new funding will allow five underrepresented minority master’s students to participate in the program each year. Eleven faculty researchers at the partner schools will serve as Bridges mentors. Doctoral students will receive financial support during the first two years of full-time study through traineeships, scholarships or research assistantships with stipends.

Underrepresented minority nurse scholars are more likely to teach and conduct research on health conditions that disproportionately affect minority populations. The contributions of these nurses, in turn, lead to improvements in health and quality of life for minorities as well as the general public, Scott said.

Graduates of the Bridges program have returned to underserved areas to teach future nurse scholar-researchers and practitioners, lead population-based research projects, and implement interventions aimed at reducing health disparities, she said.

UIC’s current Ph.D. students are leading research projects to reduce HIV transmission rates among African American females; study the relationship between physical activity and obesity in Latino populations; and determine the influence of social networks on eating behaviors in African American women.

Since the inception of the Bridges program, 54 master’s students have been enrolled and 11 students have completed the Ph.D. program, with some going on to postdoctoral research training. Eight now have faculty positions in nursing colleges.

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