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Youth Scholars Give Advice to Next Generation

By Lorrita Watson

Each year, the Interamerican College of Physicians and Surgeons, the American Association of Indian Physicians and the National Medical Association Auxiliary bring to NIH a group of Hispanic, American Indian or African American high school students. Students are selected to participate in the National Hispanic Youth Initiative, the National Native American Youth Initiative or the National African American Youth Initiative based upon individuals' interest in scientific careers. They spend 1 week in the Washington, D.C., area visiting various scientific organizations and studying the processes that affect research and public policy relative to health.

Curtis Henry listens to peer talk.

This past summer, four former youth initiative participants, who have moved up to other NIH pipeline programs, addressed the incoming students and encouraged them to follow in their footsteps by applying for other NIH programs.

Erik Cabral, a Stanford University graduate with a B.S. in human biology, was a member of the Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) in 1997 and 1998. He visited NIH in 1995 as a Hispanic youth initiative scholar.

"Set clear goals for yourself," he advised. "Stay positive and be persistent even if things do not turn out as planned."

Gabriel Linares, who is pursuing a B.S. degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior at the University of California, Davis, is a member of the UGSP for 1999-2001. An NHYI scholar in 1997, he told the new crop of students to "always keep an open mind. Obtain some type of research experience before coming to the NIH."

The goal of the youth initiatives is to encourage minority high school students to remain in the academic pipeline and purse careers in the health professions. During their visit to NIH, scholars visit laboratories and attend seminars that highlight NIH scientific activities and training programs. The visits are coordinated by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities in partnership with NINDS and NHLBI. Nearly all NIH institutes and centers support the programs financially.

NCMHD director Dr. John Ruffin (c) meets with students (from l) Marlon Footracer, Erik Cabral, Bruce Sabath and Gabriel Linares.

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