UTHSC’s Outreach Effort Gets Boost from NIH to Help Underserved Youth

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The University of Tennessee Health Science Center(UTHSC) is receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding of $1.3 million over five years to stimulate the public’s interest in science.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center(UTHSC) is receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding of $1.3 million over five years to stimulate the public’s interest in science. The UTHSC initiative, Building Bridges to Health Science Literacy, will use the funds to introduce more underserved youth to the study of science and health-related fields. The NIH is granting $8.5 million nationwide for Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA). The UTHSC community outreach initiative is one of seven SEPA recipients.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the UT Health Science Center to develop significant community partnerships, as well as add a novel dimension to the promotion of health science literacy throughout Memphis and the Mid-South region,” said Robert Shreve, EdD, assistant dean in the College of Medicine and principal investigator for the grant. Vicki M. Park, PhD, associate professor, Department of Pediatrics, and Larry Tague, research associate in the UTHSC Department of Physiology, are co-investigators on the grant.

Beginning with established community resources and partnerships, this project will develop innovative approaches to introduce problem-based learning to Memphis schools (K-12). The purpose is to help teachers improve the quality of science education, encourage more students to develop an interest in science, and prepare them for careers in scientific fields. The Memphis City Schools, the Pink Palace Museum, Memphis Science Partners, and the Memphis Educational Computer Connectivity Alliance are partners in the project to bring hands-on science learning to underserved youth.

A secondary goal of this project is to develop an educational program to improve the genetic literacy of the general public. Specifically, the project is designed to build on participants’ own experiences to develop an appreciation of the genetic basis of disease and the potential impact of genetics on health care. The initial target audience will be participants in established clinical research programs at UTHSC. Traveling “suitcase exhibits” and interactive displays, in collaboration with Memphis’ Pink Palace Museum and school-based Family Health Nights, will allow the program to inform larger segments of the community and focus on disease prevention and health promotion.

Administered by the National Center for Research Resources, a part of the NIH, SEPA grants provide from two to five years of support. In addition to UTHSC, grants were presented to Illinois State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Arizona, the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh.