Celebrating 15 Years of the Mount Sinai International Exchange Program, a Global Health Research Training Program for Minority Students
Global environmental health is recognized as the most pressing challenge of our time. A recent report by The Lancet estimated that environmental pollution causes three times more deaths from non-communicable diseases than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and that 92% of pollution-related deaths and diseases occur in low and middle income countries. Yet, there are few opportunities for the scientific research workforce is receive training in this area of work.
I have been the director of the Mount Sinai Division of International Health since 2004. Our mission is to partner with scientists in other countries to enhance capacity to identify, document, prevent and mitigate environmental health problems that have the potential to affect morbidity in vulnerable populations, especially children. To do this, we initially trained and nurtured the careers of 52 international scholars in Mexico, Brazil and Chile through the Fogarty-supported ITREOH Program - International Training in Research in Environmental & Occupational Health. We have now expanded our collaborations to 5 additional countries: Argentina, Costa Rica, Spain, South Africa, and Ireland.
My collaborations have developed into close friendships with many international scholars. Now, after so many years, we have collaborated on many research projects and joined forces to mentor a new generation of researchers. Through funding from the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities, my former international fellows and I have provided research training to 140 minority students from the US. Every year, we select 10 students from a national pool of hundreds of amazing applicants, bring them to New York for an intense orientation period and match them with international mentors. The students then spend 11 weeks conducting research in those countries. Upon their return to the US, the students continue to receive support to complete research reports worthy of publication. An astounding number of students, about a third, publish their research in peer-reviewed journals, while others have their manuscripts at different stages of review. Yet others, present their work at international professional conferences and receive recognition for their work through awards, fellowships, and acceptance to other prestigious programs.
Features of our International Exchange Program that have made it so successful over the last 15 years are:
I think this program has opened their eyes to a world of possibilities, literally. It is worthwhile.
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.