Symposium Showcases Research from Students in DDEI’s Community Programs

By Chris Carmody

The inaugural Building Bridges for Student Success Research Symposium was organized by the UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI) in partnership with the Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association.

Held at Hall STEAM Magnet High School’s Cirks Arena, the event featured 29 students from DDEI’s Pathways Academy and Health Career University programs, alongside a handful of student scholars from UAMS. Research posters ringed the arena’s concourse as participants explained their findings to friends, relatives and members of the community.

The symposium marked the culmination of a research effort that began nearly a year ago during the programs’ summer camps. Brian Gittens, Ed.D., MPA, vice chancellor of DDEI, applauded the students for the diligence they showed as they honed their projects.

“We are honored to showcase the hard work, creativity and research of these scholars,” he said.

Students stand near their research posters during the symposium in Hall STEAM Magnet High School’s Cirks Arena.

Students stand near their research posters during the symposium in Hall STEAM Magnet High School’s Cirks Arena.Image by Anthony Drake

Many of the student researchers are members of Pathways Academy, an educational and community engagement program that prepares K-12 students for opportunities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health sciences (STEM-H) disciplines. The program also offers lessons in areas such as leadership and financial literacy, striving to provide students with the tools they’ll need to be successful adults.

Katina White, educational coordinator for Pathways Academy, noted the importance of showing youths that they can succeed in health care.

“This symposium served as a visual representation of the pathway that we’re trying to create for these students,” she said. “It really means something when they have this type of opportunity and exposure to careers in health care.”

The symposium included several students from Health Career University, which encompasses a variety of programs that provide exposure to health professions and advice on how to get into academic institutions like UAMS. Last year, Health Career University operated sevens programs in central and southeast Arkansas, serving more than 100 high school, undergraduate and postgraduate students.

One of those initiatives, the Summer Research Internship (SRI) program, helps students expand their understanding of health careers by spending five days a week in laboratory settings, working with mentors and learning how to conduct science-based research.

“The inaugural DDEI research symposium provided an opportunity to showcase the extraordinary research completed by our Summer Research Institute students and by those who are pursuing their careers at UAMS,” said Gloria Richard-Davis, M.D., MBA, executive director of DDEI.

“These students represent our future health care providers and leaders,” she said. “With these committed, gifted minds, I am confident our health care workforce has a bright future.”

Gittens said Pathways Academy and Health Career University play a vital role in DDEI’s efforts to ensure that STEM-H careers are accessible and attainable for every student in Arkansas.

“These programs reach all four corners of our state,” Gittens said. “They create a series of educational interventions from K-16 to promote student engagement and encouragement toward careers in health sciences.”

The students’ research covered a wide variety of topics in health care and health education, delving into medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes or examining social determinants of health.

Participants were divided into four categories: Pathways Academy students in grades 6-8, Pathways Academy students in grades 9-12, Health Career University students, and professional scholars. Each project was evaluated by a panel of judges, and prizes were awarded to the best entry in each category.

The honorees of the Building Bridges for Student Success Research Symposium were:

  • Caleb Canady, Little Rock Christian Academy, “4 in 1”
  • Aiden Pope, Pine Bluff High School, “Losing My Breath”
  • Nora Ali, Pulaski Academy, “ATF6 and EZH2 Balancing in MHC-1 Presentation and Immunotherapy Effectiveness in Metastatic Melanoma”
  • Breyanna Dulaney, UAMS College of Medicine, “An Evaluation of an Anesthesia Technician Pipeline Program”

Ali, a participant in SRI, said her time in the program allowed her to build connections and showed the importance of having supportive, patient and inspiring mentors.

“I was so lucky to be given this opportunity, and I couldn’t have asked for a better community to help inspire and push me to seek knowledge and participate in research,” she said.

Canady, a student in Pathways Academy’s Senior STEM Academy for grades 6-8, said it felt good to be recognized for his research, adding that his hard work had paid off.

“This is a moment in my life that I’ll remember,” he said.