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2010 National HBCU Week

Keynote Addresses Highlight Importance of HBCUs to Advances in Health Care

White House Domestic Policy Council director Melody Barnes helped kick off the 2010 National HBCU Week conference with a keynote address that praised the Black institutions for the contributions they’ve made to both the African-American community and the world at large and reminded them how important they are to the U.S.

“Because your institutions are so vital to our country, it is important that you join with us as we ask others to recommit ourselves to ensure that every single student who dreams of going to college can attend college,” Barnes said.

During a session titled “Building STEM Capacity,” led by Shirley Malcolm, director of education and human resources programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and NASA shared information about resources and opportunities at their organizations targeted at HBCUs.

Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, acting assistant director of NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources, suggested that HBCU leaders consider its signature initiative, the HBCU undergraduate program (HBCU-UP), for grants to fund research, special programs, or certifications and other activities. The program includes research initiation grants to broaden participation in biology, geosciences and engineering.

The luncheon keynote address was delivered by Health and Human Services deputy secretary William Cord, who said that HHS owes a debt of gratitude to HBCUs.

“You have made an enormous contribution to medical science, thanks to brilliant physicians, like Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who pioneered open-heart surgery and taught at Meharry,” and others, he said. “The leaders you’ve nurtured have changed the world.”

Cord said that it is imperative that HHS and HBCUs partner to reduce health disparities in minority communities and that they will play an important role as the various stages of health care reform are rolled out. In the past year, the agency has provided $213 million in grants to HBCUs across the country, an increase of approximately 26 percent from last year. The agency also has invested $500 million in Recovery Act funding at HBCUs to expand the primary care workforce.

Moving forward, Cord explained, HHS has set several priorities for working with the institutions, including  advancing medical education, increasing HBCU participation in biomedical research, and improving data collection in underserved communities. He said that, later this fall, HHS will announce a national plan of action on health disparities to better coordinate partnerships and collaborations between HBCUs and federal health agencies and departments.

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