Journal of Community Health

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 1002–1010 | Cite as

Introducing Students of Color to Health Sciences Research: An Evaluation of the Health Disparities Summer Internship Program

  • Nicole A. McLean
  • Marilyn Fraser
  • Nicole A. Primus
  • Michael A. Joseph
Original Paper


The goal of this analysis is to assess the effectiveness of a summer program designed to introduce high school students of color to health disparities research. A total of 73 students (69.9% Black, 68.5% female and 80.6% either junior/senior) participated in the 4-week Health Disparities Summer Internship Program (HDSIP) during the years 2012–2015. Students attended lectures covering topics such as health disparities, community-based participatory research (CBPR), immigrant health, and policy and advocacy. While working with community-based organizations, students gained hands-on experience related to issues discussed in class. Students completed research projects and provided suggestions for health policy change. Pre/post surveys were completed to evaluate the program. After participating in the HDSIP, students demonstrated heightened awareness of the social determinants of health, especially in regards to racial discrimination (p = .023); borderline statistically significant increases were shown for income (p = .082), community safety (p = .058), and healthcare access (p = .076). Most students (82.1%) planned to advocate for changes in their community; an increase from the initial 65.2% (p = .052). About nine out of ten students (89.6%) reported being satisfied with the summer program; the majority reported improvement in analytical skills, CBPR methods, and oral/communication skills. Increasing diversity in the health workforce has widely been proposed as a means of addressing health disparities. Introducing minority students to health professions can serve as a catalyst for lasting changes in health outcomes. The HDSIP has increased students’ awareness of social determinants of health and has fostered their interest in improving the health of minority populations.


Health disparities Black Evaluation Students Young adult 



The Funding was provided by National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

No conflict of interest has been declared by the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole A. McLean
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marilyn Fraser
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nicole A. Primus
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michael A. Joseph
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public HealthSUNY Downstate Medical CenterBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.Brooklyn Health Disparities CenterBrooklynUSA
  3. 3.Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban HealthBrooklynUSA

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