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Tougaloo College Scholars Visit NIH

Recently, undergraduates from Tougaloo College, an historically black college, experienced biomedical research first hand at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute during a 3-day tour of NIH.

The students are participants in a Jackson Heart Study training program established by Tougaloo to create highly trained students for careers in public health. The Jackson Heart Study is a population-based study of cardiovascular disease in African Americans. The study is sponsored by NHLBI and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and is conducted in partnership with Jackson State University, Tougaloo and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. One of the study's goals is to increase the number of minorities in research and public health. Students enrolled in the training program take classes in public health, epidemiology, biostatistics, research methods and medical research ethics. The program also provides hands-on training experiences for the students — such as the recent visit to the NIH campus.

Dr. Jason Hoffert (l) and Tougaloo College student observe immunostained kidney tissue while other students watch.

NHLBI acting director Dr. Barbara Alving and Dr. Helena Mishoe, director of the institute's Office of Minority Health Affairs, welcomed the students, and later Dr. Paul Sorlie of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications gave a presentation on "What is population-based research and why is it important?" Then students visited the new Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and the Division of Intramural Research at NHLBI. With guidance from Dr. Jason Hoffert of the Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism, students examined an immunostained kidney tissue section that revealed regions of water channel aquaporin-2 expression. They also visited NHLBI's Laboratory of Cardiac Energetics.

The tour continued in Washington, D.C., as students explored various science-focused museums, including the recently opened Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences, and then met with senators and representatives from their home state on Capitol Hill. Returning to NIH, they concluded their visit with a tour of the National Library of Medicine.

Upon their return to Jackson, a number of students sent emails expressing their excitement and a new appreciation for the process of scientific discovery. One student commented, "The trip to Bethesda has forever changed my outlook on life and my thoughts as to what I can become."

Dr. Daniel Sarpong (back row, l) and Wendy White (second row, l) of the Jackson Heart Study Undergraduate Scholars Program escorted the Tougaloo College students on the tours, while Dr. Barbara Alving (front row, l) and Dr. Helena Mishoe (front row, r) joined them in front of Bldg. 1.

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