Texas Center for Health Disparities Announces First Group of STAR Fellows

June 29, 2006

The Texas Center for Health Disparities (Texas EXPORT Center), developed by UNT Health Science Center, recently announced its first group of STAR fellows, which includes faculty members from throughout the United States.

The STAR, stands for Steps Toward Academic Research, fellowship program was developed by researchers at the health science center to help address health disparities.

â??There is a great need to address issues of health disparities,â? said Jamboor K. Vishwanatha, PhD, program director for Texas EXPORT Center and associate dean and professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the health science center. â??We are just beginning in our efforts to provide much needed research opportunities on health disparities by providing faculty members an opportunity to help understand and eliminate health disparities among minority populations.â?

The fellowship, designed for emerging biomedical scientists at minority-serving institutions to learn how to study health disparities, is a mentorship program. Fellows are provided with collaborative training with faculty members from the health science center and other institutions directed toward fostering health disparities research initiatives.

Ten faculty members from around the country were chosen for the inaugural class. Fellows are allowed to keep their current faculty appointments while participating in the year-long fellowship.

Throughout the year, fellows will participate in a variety of educational programs provided by STAR fellowship program faculty in a variety of modes. The fellows began their training with a three-day orientation at the first annual Health Disparities Conference hosted by the health science center June 2-4. Monthly, weekend online or onsite seminars will take place throughout the rest of the year.

Fellows will learn about the epidemiology and biostatistics of health disparity, research design, computer technology, community assessment, human subjects research, compliance with Institutional Review Boards, scientific communications, grant writing, health policy and survey research, and they will participate in a simulated research grant review process.

â??The goal of this fellowship is to increase the number of investigators from the underrepresented minorities involved in health disparity research,â? Dr. Vishwanatha said. â??This is an integral part of our Texas EXPORT Center because it extends our valuable existing partnerships with minority-serving institutions in Texas and surrounding states and provides valuable opportunities to develop collaborative research programs addressing health disparities.â?

The National Institutes of Health awarded the health center a $7.25 million grant in 2005 to establish the Texas Center for Health Disparities, called the Texas EXPORT Center.

The grant, known as Project EXPORTâ??Establishing Exploratory Centers, will be funded for five years, from 2005 to 2010, by NIHâ??s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

STAR Fellowship Program mentors from the health science center include Dr. Vishwanatha, associate dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Thomas Yorio, PhD, GSBS dean and vice president for research; Robert Kaman, PhD, JD, associate dean and director of the Office of Outreach for GSBS and associate professor of health management and policy; Bruce Dubin, DO, JD, associate dean of academic affairs and medical education for the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine; Adela Gonzalez, PhD, assistant professor of health management and policy and vice president for community affairs and institutional diversity; Michael Smith, PhD, chair and professor of integrative physiology; Roberto Cardarelli, DO, MPH, assistant professor of family medicine; and James Caffrey, PhD, professor of integrative physiology and acting director of the cardiovascular research division.

The STAR fellows include three faculty members from the health science center Jennifer Heffernan, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine; Harlan Jones, PhD, assistant professor of molecular biology and immunology; and Nuha Lackan, PhD, assistant professor of health management and policy.

For information about the Texas Center for Health Disparities, log on to the website www.hsc.unt.edu/HealthDisparities.

2006-2007 STAR Fellows include:

-Bruce Benz, PhD, associate professor of biology at Texas Wesleyan University;
-Sheila Garland, PhD, chair and associate professor of nursing at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff;
-Jennifer Heffernan, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at UNT Health Science Center;
-Gary Hill, DO, assistant professor of internal medicine at Nova Southeastern University;
-Harlan Jones, PhD, assistant professor of molecular biology and immunology at UNT Health Science Center;
-Lorna Kendrick, PhD, RN, director of the BSN program and associate professor of nursing at Tennessee State University;
-Ihenetu Kenneth, assistant professor at Texas A&M University;
-Nuha Lackan, PhD, assistant professor of health management and policy at UNT Health Science Center;
-Florence Okafor, PhD, assistant professor of biology at Alabama A&M University; and
-Pamela Robinson, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry at Tuskegee University.

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Contact: Kay Colley 817-735-2553, cell 817-980-5090, e-mail kacolley@hsc.unt.edu.

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