University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University’s ReBUILDetroit program recently received a five-year renewal grant of more than $19 million from the National Institutes of Health. The ReBUILDetroit program works to encourage undergraduate students from underrepresented or economically disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers in biomedical research.
ReBUILDetroit is a partnership between University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University, supported by an initial $21.2 million grant awarded in 2014. In this next phase, Henry Ford College has joined the partnership to create pathways for students to transfer from community college to complete four-year college degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at Detroit Mercy or WSU and eventually join graduate programs in biomedical-related fields. The first phase of the grant significantly impacted student retention rates, with most ReBUILD scholars graduating in four years.
The majority of the renewal grant will provide scholarships and stipends for students enrolled in the program.
Before starting college as freshman, ReBUILDetroit scholars experience the excitement of scientific discovery through direct participation in research, peer and faculty mentoring, and cohort building activities. They also attend lectures and presentations by guest speakers and engage in professional development while preparing for graduate school and career paths in biomedical disciplines that are in demand.
Katherine Snyder, dean of Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering and Science and the contact principal investigator for the grant, is thrilled with this renewal and looks forward to impacting a greater number of students who might consider biomedical fields of study.
“This renewal allows us to build upon the impactful interventions we implemented during the first round of funding and continue to implement institutional change to sustain this impact beyond grant funding,” she explained.
Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., associate dean of WSU's Graduate School and co-principal investigator, said, “Buoyed by our initial successes, our goal is to continue enriching the college experience of our ReBUILDetroit scholars, helping them graduate in STEM disciplines and stimulating their interest in biomedical research using multiple approaches.
“We envisioned that by introducing these young people to biomedical career opportunities, we can ultimately increase the diversity of faculty members in STEM fields” said Dr. Kumar, assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Anatomy/Cell Biology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Although we want to ensure that our future generations will thrive in a diverse academic environment, if we do not fill the pipeline at the undergraduate level we cannot expect to recruit more diverse faculty.”
Students who enroll in this program receive a number of benefits, including:
Paid, faculty-mentored research.
Extensive mentoring by faculty and peers in and outside the classroom.
Curriculum support and programming to prepare them for graduate studies.
Networking opportunities with the scientific research community.
Opportunities to present research at national conferences.
The impact of the ReBUILDetroit program is significant and life-changing. Relicious Eboh, a 2019 graduate, said she learned about research, public health, serving others and, most importantly, much about herself in the program. During her Detroit Mercy career, she conducted public health research from her first year until she graduated. On entering the university, she had her eyes set on pre-dentistry but changed her mind early in her freshman year.
“My passion for public health started when I took a class on health disparities. I knew then that I wanted to do more people-oriented research in the area of public health and eventually become a physician,” she said. “After graduation, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in public health, and my ultimate goal is to combine research, public policy and medicine so we can make sure people get the public health services they need.”
Click here to learn more about ReBUILDetroit.
The grant number for this National Institutes of Health award is GM118982.