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Health Disparities Research Symposium

Students Visit Loma Linda University

 Students from high schools and universities across the U.S. attended the 12th Annual Health Disparities Research Symposium on Aug. 1 at Loma Linda University, a spokeswoman announced Monday.

The event was sponsored by Loma Linda University's Center For Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine and the National Institute of Health.

Research conducted by more than 60 students, most from minority groups underrepresented in the sciences, was showcased at the symposium, Briana Pastorino of Loma Linda University said in a statement.

"The program not only engages the students' fundamental biomedical research in health disparities diseases, but it exposes them to the disproportional effect that cancer, diabetes, stroke and other diseases has in minority populations and the poor," said Marino De Leon, PhD, Center For Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine director.

"Exposing students to this experience opens their young minds to the possibility that they may one day serve and address the needs of their own community," De Leon said.

Tamanda Chanza, an undergraduate student at Oakwood University in Alabama, studied the role of thyroid hormone in regulating bone formation, Pastorino said.

"We found that thyroid hormone increases the levels of the protein Osterix in a manner that is independent of Runx2, another protein that increases bone formation," Chanza said. "These studies will help us understand better how thyroid hormone contributes to bone formation, and its role in osteoporosis."

High school students at the symposium participated in the Apprenticeship Bridge to College program, Pastorino said. Current college and university students, including Chanza, participated in the Undergraduate Training Program. Medical students took part in the Medical Training Program, which focused on health disparities issues and research.

PhD and MD-PhD students in scholarly biomedical research took part in the Loma Linda University-National Institute of Health Initiative for Maximizing Student Development Program, Pastorino said.

"Students must apply for and meet specific requirements to be considered for the programs," Pastorino said.

Each program immerses students in hands-on research projects under supervision of a mentor, Pastorino said. Students also take part in seminars to build academic and scientific skills to succeed in research careers, Pastorino said. Students began their projects in June 2012.

"The program recruits and trains students from underrepresented groups and poor communities for doctoral programs in health sciences," Pastorino said. "Increasing the recruiting and training of students that are disproportionately underrepresented in the biomedical and health sciences fields is essential to address the shortage of physicians to recognize the health needs of medically underserved communities."

Loma Linda University's Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine is billed as "a research center of excellence" supported by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine brings together faculty from different schools to address diseases that disproportionally affect poor and minority populations in the U.S.

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