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02-12 NIDA welcomes minorities to its summer research internship

Posted in Substance Abuse

NIDA welcomes minorities to its summer research internship

In little more than 30 years, half the U.S. population is projected to be minorities according to the 2010 Census Demographic Profiles. Samantha Kaplan, M.D., explains four reasons why diversity within the scientific and medical field is needed:

  1. To serve underrepresented minorities
  2. To build rapport based on affinity
  3. To offer cultural empathy
  4. To enhance the medical field with diversity of background to launch needed innovations

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is in its 20th year offering scholarship for underrepresented minorities to intern in the clinical research industry. The application deadline is Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016.

Statistics and sentiments

“There’s research on how patients respond to physicians with whom they feel some concordance – whether it’s culture, race, language, gender. Conversations are more patient-centered; the patients ask more questions, and more data about what’s actually bothering them can be extracted, leading to better outcomes.” This from Kaplan, who is an obstetrician gynecologist and professor at Boston University School of Medicine; the assistant dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the director of the Early Medical School Selection Program.

According to an article on Boston’s NPR news station about the necessity for minority doctors, in 2008, 1 in 8 Americans were African-American, yet only 1 in 15 doctors were. Though 1 in 6 Americans claim Hispanic or Latino heritage, only 1 in 20 doctors identified as such. It’s largely been proven many minorities avoid treatment due to fears that a clinician who does not mirror them will accurately understand and respond to their needs.

Research studies and accepted indices like body mass have historically been dominated by white males. Clinical experts admit this has led to limited understanding, treatment and success with medicine and treatment modalities for underrepresented cultural groups. Comparatively little innovation has been attempted or unearthed with respect to gender, ethnicity and etiologic variations, as Alice B. Britt, Ph.D., explains.

“These cultural biases and the emphasis on majority American values and lifestyles may contribute to the presence of substance abuse behaviors in the African-American community,” she writes.

According to an article in the Psychiatric Times on cultural disparities in mental health, representation is increasing. “Provider diversity can enhance cultural understanding. Between 1999 and 2006, professionals from ethnic minority groups increased from 17.6 percent to 21.4 percent in psychiatry, from 8.2 percent to 12.9 percent in social work, and from 6.6 percent to 7.8 percent in psychology.” NIDA is doing its part to inspire and expose minority youth to the field of clinical research.

NIDA summer research internship

“This program supports summer research internships for high school and undergraduate students who are from racial/ethnic populations that are nationally underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical sciences,” NIDA explains.

Nearly 1,000 students have acquired experience in substance abuse/addiction research since the summer internship program began. While students from all backgrounds are welcome, NIDA encourages students from underrepresented groups, such as Native American, Black/African-Americans, Hispanic/Latinos and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, to apply by the Feb. 14 deadline.

The eight-week research internship partners students with the association’s most distinguished scientists and relocates them to universities all over the country. Parents and students can look forward to internship including lab experiments, formal scientific courses, data collection and analysis, patient interviews, research, manuscript preparation and content reviews. Interns will deliver a presentation on his or her research project to culminate the project.

As a leader in mental health and substance abuse treatment, Sovereign Health Group endorses endeavors such as the clinical summer internship that bridge the gap between research, treatment and recovery, and people of all demographics. If you or your loved one is in need of assistance with mental health or a substance use disorder, please call our 24/7 helpline for details.

About the Author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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