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50 HBCU Scholars Complete American Heart Association Research Program Sponsored by Quest for Health Equity

The American Heart Association recently hosted their annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Scholars Program Research Symposium in Nashville, Tennessee. While HBCUs graduate the largest number of African American students in the field of medicine, the number of students studying biological sciences at these institutions has been declining since the late 1970s. This program aims to increase the number of African American students who apply and are accepted into graduate science, research, and public health programs, reversing this trend.

According to a new UCLA study, the percentage of Black physicians in the United States has increased only 4% in the past 120 years. Another statistic shows that Black women account for less than 3% of US doctors. Representation and equity in the healthcare field matter and that is why this program is so important in shaping the future to change these figures. 

The Quest Diagnostics Foundation is proud to support the expansion of the AHA Scholars program as part of our Quest for Health Equity (Q4HE) initiative. Q4HE is a multi-year initiative of Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX) and the Quest Diagnostics Foundation, and is focused on providing a combination of donated testing services, education programs, partnerships, and funding to support initiatives to close the gap in healthcare disparities in underserved communities. This year’s cohort includes 41 female and 9 male students pursuing advanced studies and careers in various areas of the healthcare field.

“Through Quest for Health Equity, Quest made a commitment to do our part to address systemic inequities in healthcare and work towards meaningful progress,” said Stacey Ingram, Senior Manager for Networked Initiatives, Quest for Health Equity. “Our involvement in the HBCU Scholars program is part of our commitment to increase diverse representation in medical practice and research. More diverse representation can lead to a reduction in health disparities through better communications, improved trust in the medical system, and enhanced quality of care.” 

Stacey shared the following advice with the Scholars during her opening remarks at the dinner ceremony, “As with many achievements, you will encounter some challenges on your journey in the pursuit of a career in science, but the experiences you have gained as a Scholar will help you along this journey. One of the most valuable is the relationships built here with your mentors and your peers. Do not discount those lifelines. Completion of the program to become one of the 2021-2022 HBCU Scholars is an achievement that cannot be understated and is to be celebrated and admired.”

The keynote speech was presented by André L. Churchwell, MD, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Senior Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Learn more about how Quest is teaming up with the American Heart Association to reduce health inequities while expanding the pipeline to create a more diverse healthcare force, here

Scholar Spotlights

Joshua Lewis

Joshua, a native of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is a junior majoring in biomedical engineering at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Upon graduation, Joshua hopes to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. As an AHA HBCU Scholar, he has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Lydia Bazzano investigating “Assessment of National and International Guidelines on Hypertensive Pregnancy Disorders.”

“Overall, the entire experience made me realize how important social determinants of health are in the healthcare field,” said Joshua. “I plan to continue to focus on cancer research. This program has really inspired me to learn about patients outside of care and to make sure I am focusing on the needs of the people I will be taking care of and their communities.” 

Trinity Upshaw

Trinity, a native of Fort Michell, Alabama, is a junior majoring in biology and Spanish at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduation, Trinity hopes to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery. Trinity will also begin her internship with Quest Diagnostics in June in support of the Quest for Health Equity team. As an AHA HBCU Scholar, Trinity has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Evangeline Motley-Johnson investigating “The Role of Protease-Activated Receptor 4 in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Migration.”

“Through this program, I met my mentor, who helped with my research and gave me needed guidance. In undergrad I focused on breast cancer research, so she really helped to guide me through completing cardiovascular research during this program,” said Trinity. “Being in this program has afforded me the opportunity to make connections and to grow in my research and in my personal development.”

Kennedy Singleton

Kennedy is a third-year pharmacy major at Xavier University in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. As an AHA HBCU Scholar, Kennedy has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Prasad V.G. Katakam investigating “Effect of Alzheimer’s Peptide, Aβ 1-42 on Human Brain Mitochondrial Endothelial Cell Mitochondrial Respiration in Hyperglycemia.” Upon graduation, Kennedy hopes to pursue a career in pharmaceutical industry.

“The most interesting part of my research was seeing the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kennedy. “I learned a lot about both areas at school, but that connection was never made in class. Being able to uncover this connection through my research was my favorite part of the program.” 

Sydney Jones

Sydney, a native of Huntsville, Alabama, is a senior majoring in dietetics at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. As an AHA HBCU Scholar, Sydney has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Austin Robinson investigating “The Influence of Habitual Dietary Sodium and Potassium on Blood Pressure in Young Adults.” Upon graduation, Sydney hopes to pursue a career in sports nutrition as a sports dietitian.

“This program was a great networking opportunity and experience for me to work in the physiology labs. I was lucky because my mentor’s wife is a registered dietitian who gave me guidance during my research,” said Sydney. The Scholars program and my mentors helped me to discover what I want to focus on for my PhD and future career path and have inspired me to pursue sports nutrition. I am also excited to share that my research will be continued, and I will be the coauthor on the research paper when it is published.”