About 80 students from diverse backgrounds from high schools and
universities in the Inland Empire and nationwide capped off their summer by
presenting posters on diverse topics as human gene expression to treatment for
spinal cord injury at a symposium on August 6 at Loma Linda University Health in California.
The students’ work was showcased at the fourteenth annual Health
Disparities Research Symposium, presented by Loma Linda University School of
Medicine Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine. More than 300
researchers, students, community stakeholders, and university administrators
attended the symposium.
The scientific posters represent the completion of the students’
work as participants in the center’s Disparities Research Program, which pairs
participating high school, undergraduate, post-graduate, and medical students
with researchers and scientists at Loma Linda University Health to conduct
The symposium featured as keynote speaker Johns Hopkins
University professor Thomas A. LaVeist, a globally recognized expert in health
disparities, who also spoke about the problems and prospects faced by
researchers studying health inequalities.
“Passion can come at any age,” said Yamiko “Jessica” Chanza, 16,
an incoming junior at Redlands High School, who wants to become a pediatric
Chanza, whose family came from Malawi, Africa, said she had no
idea what to expect when she joined the summer program, but knew that she
wanted to make a difference in people’s health in some way.
“This experience really opened my eyes about the health
disparities that exist in society, because even infants experience them,” said
Chanza, who participated in a project looking at the effect of sugars on the
metabolism of premature babies.
The Loma Linda University Health Disparities Research Summer
Program, now in its fourteenth year, targets promising students from
disadvantaged communities by Loma Linda University School of Medicine Center
for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine to encourage them to consider
careers in medicine and biomedical research and increase diversity in the
medical research field. The Loma Linda University School of Medicine Center for
Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine has been designated by the National
Institutes of Health as a Center of Excellence on Health Disparities and
Research trainees are paired with academic mentors and engage in
biomedical research conducted in various science, health and clinical
departments at Loma Linda University Health and the Jerry L. Pettis VA Medical
“What has been accomplished here today is that the students are
becoming active participants in the dialogue concerning health disparities,”
said Marino De Leon, director of Loma Linda University School of Medicine
Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine.
He said it’s important for young researchers to be aware of
health disparities—often drawn along racial and socio-economic lines—that exist
among members of society, in order to come up with research and treatment
models that are meaningful to people.
“Disease impacts people in their own context, and these students
can become an agent of change for their own communities,” he said.