Founded in 1991 by Dr. Diane Alington , Project L/EARN was begun as an innovative program to involve undergraduates in health research with faculty at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (IHHCPAR) to prepare them for graduate study in a health-related field.
Dr. Louise Russell was an early proponent for engaging undergraduates in the facultyís research projects, which prompted the design and implementation of the program. From the beginning of the program, students were recruited and selected from racial and ethnic groups that had been historically under-represented in graduate education and health careers. Drs. Alington and Russell co-directed the program for the first six years with funding through The Grassman Trust, The Prudential Foundation, the Hyde and Watson Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Rutgers University with additional contributions from a National Institutes of Mental Health Center Grant to IHHCPAR and a Minority Supplement from the National Institute on Aging. In the first year of the program, three Rutgers students were accepted for a hands-on summer research experience.
The early curriculum combined an intensive course in statistical and computer methods with individualized research projects by each intern with their faculty mentor. Interns also received advising about choosing and applying to graduate school. The curriculum was developed by Diane (Deedee) Davis, Associate Director for Research Computing at IHHCPAR, who became the Program Director of Project L/EARN. Enhancements to the Project L/EARN program have been ongoing. Ms. Davis oversaw curriculum changes including hands-on computer laboratory training in statistical analysis, literature searches, table and chart creation, and preparation of presentations. By 1996, the program had expanded to seven interns per summer.
Another important facet of the program has long been its continuing efforts to stay in touch with interns from prior years and keep up with what they are doing. This component was added initially because Dr. Alington saw the need to evaluate the programís track record in order to persuade funders to support the program. It has had the salutary effect that Project L/EARN mentors and directors stay in contact with program alumni, providing them with valuable guidance and advice as they progress through graduate school and their early careers. Over time, this network has developed into a vast mentoring web among interns at different career stages that advise and support one another.
The next stage - NIMH funding
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