Avancemos! Building Partnerships Between Academia and Underserved Latinx Communities to Address Health Disparities Through a Faculty-Mentored Undergraduate Research Program

Health Promotion Practice / August 2020

two latino students studying

Latinx is the largest minority population group in the United States and disproportionately affected by health disparities. Efforts to address such health disparities require a concerted, multipronged approach that should involve training the next generation of Latinx health professionals to become part of a culturally competent workforce. This article describes a formative assessment of a faculty mentored undergraduate research program at the University Massachusetts–Boston, called “Avancemos!: Advancing Research Skills and Professional Career Opportunities in Health Sciences for Latinx Undergraduate Students” designed to provide mentorship, research training, and professional career development skills for undergraduate Latinx students. The authors employed a mixed-method approach in the formative assessment of the program. Their results showed that over the course of four academic semesters the program served a majority female, first-generation, immigrant low-income Latinx undergraduate students. Their qualitative assessment of students’ perceived benefits of participation in the program suggests positive effects on a number of areas including the acquisition of concrete and marketable research skills, enhanced understanding and application of knowledge gained in other courses, increased network, enhanced sense of belonging to the academic community, increased professional self-confidence, and enhanced preparedness and plans to pursue graduate studies. Furthermore, the authors' findings suggest that participation in community-engaged research activities offered opportunities for students to realize the role research plays in reducing health disparities. Faculty-mentored undergraduate research programs such as the Avancemos! offer essential opportunities to build partnerships between academia and underserved Latinx communities to address health disparities, while contributing to the development of culturally competent health professions workforce.