Is there funding available for minority students who want to earn a graduate degree in preventive health? I know there are some preventive health programs. I also know that many schools offer degrees in public/community health as well.
The United States has 31 accredited schools of public health, with eight others currently seeking accreditation. Almost all have programs focusing on prevention.
Students at schools of public health typically finance their educations the same way students in other areas do: with a combination of loans and grants, the balance varying greatly from program to program. Graduate students don't qualify for federal Title IV financial assistance, so most students aren't supported independently; rather, they take their support from wherever they find it--usually from a faculty member's research program or the institution's financial aid office. Graduates of programs in public and preventive health are no different from graduates in most other fields in that most finish with a heavy debt burden.
The amount of available institutional support varies from program to program and from field to field, but all schools of public health have discretionary resources, and most have funds for recruiting and retaining minority students. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has several institutional grant programs aimed at increasing the diversity of the public-health workforce; for example, the Bureau of Health Professions (part of the Health Resources and Services Administration) administers the Health Careers Opportunity Program, which makes 80 to 85 awards each year (counting renewals and new awards) to educational institutions. The universities use the money for many purposes, from expanding the minority "pipeline" by means of innovative outreach programs to supporting minority graduate students.
Another excellent possibility, according to Anthony A. René, assistant director of NIH's Institute for General Medical Sciences, is the program NIH Research Supplements for Underrepresented Minorities, which supplements the grants of NIH-funded researchers who employ minority students in their research laboratories. Find an NIH-funded researcher who's willing to work with you and help him or her prepare the supplement application, and you should hear back from NIH within 8 weeks. Twenty-two NIH institutes, almost all of which support research in some area of preventive medicine, offer these supplements.
Bottom line: You probably won't be able to work everything out in advance. Find a school of public health and get accepted, then figure out how to support yourself. Call the financial aid offices at your desired institutions to see whether they have programs you might qualify for; they won't give you a guarantee, but at least you'll know the possibilities. Consider local public institutions, many of which have excellent programs, and which often offer a better deal than private and out-of-state schools (although some of the richer private schools may be able to offer you a better financial aid package). State institutions are also more likely to allow you to pursue your studies part-time so that you can continue to meet any other obligations you have.
It may not be easy and you may end up in debt, but loan-repayment plans are more flexible than they used to be, and once you've made it through you should have enough income to pay off your loans, if only just enough. Best of all, you'll be in a position to do some important and satisfying work.
Once you've made it through, you'll also qualify for several programs in preventive health that aren't available to students who lack a graduate degree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has several such programs, including the Public Health Prevention Service program and the Public Health Informatics Fellowship program. If you get an M.D., you'll have even more opportunities to choose from; CDC's Training Page gives information on many of these programs.
I am not a scientist, but I have a question that I hope you can help me with. I am the executive director for the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on funding research for Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. There are so few research studies on CMT. How would one go about finding interest in a grant increase? I am interested in funding additional studies for CMT and would love to see a more therapeutic study. I look forward to your response.
Allison T. Moore
Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation Inc.
Dear Ms. Moore,
It usually isn't hard to find someone to take your money.
Fact is, quite a few laboratories are studying Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease--which, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is a neurodegenerative disease that usually starts in the feet and then progresses steadily up the legs; it has nothing to do with teeth. Since 1998, 452 scientific papers or abstracts have mentioned CMT. The neuroscience department at Yeshiva University in New York City probably has the longest-standing NIH-funded center working on CMT and related neurodegenerative diseases. This center has been operating for more than 25 years and has three independently funded full professors doing research related to CMT. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, also currently funds programs at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Harvard Medical School, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, the neuroscience department at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the neurology department at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the school of pharmacological and physiological sciences at the University of Chicago, and the neurobiology department at Stanford University. There are also important research centers in Japan, Switzerland, and Italy, among others.
My advice? Call the top researcher at the leading programs and ask him or her to identify the best young researchers in the field. Then target your available funds to give these youngsters a leg up (no pun intended). It's fairly easy for established researchers to get money, but it's much harder for junior scientists who have yet to amass a vast publication record.
Due to the high volume of questions received, The GrantDoctor cannot answer all queries on an individual basis. Look for an answer to your question published in this column soon! Thank you!