Partnership With Cabrini Aims to Address Minority Gaps in STEM
August 8, 2019
PCOM recently partnered with Cabrini University to mentor college-age African-American
and Latino men about the process of research.
Lack of diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields
continues to be an issue. A 2018 study by the Pew Research Center found that African
Americans and Latinos make up just 16 percent of the STEM workforce. In health-related
fields, those percentages drop to 11 percent for African Americans and 8 percent of
Latinos. For the life sciences, those numbers drop even further, to 4 percent for
African Americans, and 7 percent for Latinos.
Existing research has suggested that a lack of access to advanced science courses
and professional environments could be one reason for the disparity. To that end,
PCOM recently partnered with Cabrini University to develop a summer mentoring program
designed to educate college-age African-American and Latino men about the process
of research and the intricacies of working in a professional laboratory.
For eight weeks, three Cabrini students were paired one-on-one with PCOM researchers
as an integral part of the research team, learning how to formulate research hypotheses,
design experiments and interpret their findings.
Mindy George-Weinstein, PhD, chief research and science officer, noted that Cabrini
students had been part of her lab for the past 30 years. “Cabrini students have made
significant contributions to our research. They are bright, collegial, inquisitive
and capable,” she said.
Jacquelyn Gerhart, MS, coordinator of PCOM’s research support staff and bio-imaging
facility, worked with Cabrini junior Mark Martin studying Myo/Nog cells, and said she jumped at the opportunity to participate.
“I went to Cabrini and had a similar internship experience—I was able to work with
researchers and that experience ultimately landed me my job at PCOM,” she said. “I
was very happy to give back.”
Mr. Martin said he was excited at the possibility to work in a functioning lab, and
that he found the experience beneficial.
“Jackie taught me not only how to do research but also helped me learn how to market
myself so that I can have a better chance of getting a job,” said Mr. Martin, who
is majoring in biology. “She was an amazing mentor and made this experience truly
memorable for me.”
Zachary Martinez, also a junior at Cabrini studying biology, worked in the lab of
Jocelyn Lippman-Bell, PhD, assistant professor, neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology,
studying the effects of early-life seizures on cognitive development.
“I’m definitely going to take everything I’ve learned and use those skills for the
rest of my life,” he said. “I’d love to come to PCOM after undergrad. I love the family
environment here—everyone is very friendly.”
Alexander Sanchez, a senior psychology major at Cabrini, worked with Scott Little, PhD, associate professor, microbiology and immunology, exploring the pathogen chlamydia
pnemonae as a potential trigger for Alzheimer’s disease.
“Being from North Philly, opportunities like these don’t come easy to us,” he said.
“Not many people there consider this as a career.”
Marcine Pickron-Davis, PhD, chief diversity and community relations officer, said this is exactly the type of
mindset she hopes the program can address.
“There is a real, noticeable absence of black and Latino men in the STEM fields, particularly
in the basic sciences, and we want to do everything we can to address that gap by
breaking down barriers and showing these men that there are viable careers in these
fields for them,” she said.
“PCOM has several programs in place to help address the lack of diversity in health
and science fields. It is our job to ensure that the population of our student body
reflects the diversity of our surrounding communities, and the environments in which
our students will one day serve,” said Marsha Williams, associate director of admissions,
who also oversees minority student recruitment.
Some of these additional programs include the Science and Math Summer Academy; The
DLC STEMprep Project Training Program; and the Health Professions Recruitment and
About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands
of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists
who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms.
PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic
medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in
applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic
medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, non profit leadership
and population health management, organizational development and leadership, physician
assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration.
PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service
to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care
to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
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