Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance, IHSI collaborate on new research experience for Illinois undergrads

3/9/2023 9:26:53 AM Bridget Melton

The Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance and Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute (IHSI) are offering a pilot summer research program for Illinois undergraduate students, the Health Equity Research Experience at Mayo Clinic. We spoke with the program leaders, LeaAnn Carson, Clinical Partnerships Manager at IHSI, and Brandi Barnes, Research Development Manager at IHSI, to learn more about what sparked the program and who might be interested in participating.

Health equity is a new area of collaboration for the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance. What sparked this new program?
Carson: This program emerged from a strong educational foundation that already existed through the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance and at IHSI. Since 2010, the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance has pre-selected a cohort of Illinois students to participate in the Mayo Clinic summer undergraduate research fellowship (SURF) program. In 2019, IHSI launched a Health Equity Scholars program to empower undergraduate students to work with a faculty mentor and a community organization on a research project focused on issues of health disparities (now the Community-Academic Scholars program).

Knowing that research addressing disparities in health care and disease prevention is a priority for both institutions, we worked with Mayo Clinic to develop a program that gives students interested in this area of research the opportunity to gain research skills and learn from clinicians and scientists at a highly respected health care institution. 

Why might a student want to apply for this particular research experience?
Barnes: This is a really great opportunity for the student to experience equity research in a biomedical setting. Through this program they will get hands on learning while being mentored by researchers at Mayo Clinic. This will also expose these emerging researchers to the importance of addressing disparities in health outcomes.

What are some examples of health equity research at Mayo Clinic?
Carson: Mayo Clinic has active researchers at their campuses in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota who focus on research projects and disparity-related health promotion and disease prevention in a variety of areas. Some examples include cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic illness, rural health, and social determinants of health.

Do students need any particular education or experience to be competitive for this program?
Barnes: No! This opportunity is open to students who are simply interested in pursuing a career in research but more specifically equity focused research. We hope these students will gain a meaningful experience that will help to shape their future career trajectories towards addressing disparate health outcomes in the populations they serve.

About the program
The Health Equity Research Experience, a pilot program offered by the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance and Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, provides two Illinois undergraduate students with the opportunity to address health disparities and become fully immersed in the research and culture of a major medical center with top-notch scientists at Mayo Clinic for 10 weeks over the summer. Selected students will participate in a supportive community of undergraduates while receiving support from a faculty mentor and a $6,000 stipend to cover living expenses. Applications for the pilot program are due March 27, 2023. To learn more and apply, visit