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The University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health has
received a three-year, $3 million grant to prepare kids for careers in
public health.

The Health Careers Opportunity Program: Pathways to Health Professions,
funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will target
disadvantaged students from elementary school through college for
careers in the health professions. It is a part of the UIC Urban Health

UIC, in collaboration with Chicago State University, has formed
partnerships with 20 K-12 schools located in health professional
shortage areas on the south and west sides of Chicago.

These areas lack credentialed public health professionals whose work
can improve the health of entire communities and reduce infant
mortality, according to Dr. Shaffdeen Amuwo, associate dean of the UIC
School of Public Health and part-time project director of the grant. In
disadvantaged communities, the absence of public health professionals
also contributes to health disparities and access to quality health

"The idea is to pique the student's interest in the health professions
and give them the training to be more competitive to enter programs to
become health scientists, professors in public health, and health
practitioners," said Amuwo, a community health expert.

Elementary, middle, and high school students in the program have access
to education, research training, and mentoring opportunities through
public health assemblies, curriculum, public health science clubs and
academic enrichment programs throughout the year.

"We provide a pathway to the health professions and encourage students
to do well in the courses that matter most, such as writing,
quantifying, mathematics and science," said Amuwo.

The program also addresses challenges faced by inner-city students who
are confronted with issues of violence, gangs and academic issues.

Students in grades 6 through 12 are eligible to participate in a
six-week intensive summer Public Health Institute and a 30-week Public
Health Saturday College to enrich their academic experiences and skills
in algebra, biology, writing and social development, and expose them to
public health research.

"We keep them off the street, put them in an academic environment, and
expose them to people who are succeeding and people who look like
them," said Amuwo.

College students who have a specific interest in public health receive
GRE preparations, work in labs, and are paired with alumni, professors,
community, city, state and federal agencies to complete a 10-week
summer internship as they prepare to enter graduate programs in public

"Being in an urban area, being in a health professions shortage area,
it allows us to say 'Look college students, you can be successful
because there are many successful people from your own community.'"

Most importantly, they must be willing to work in a health profession
when they finish, said Amuwo.

"In order to bring a child from an impoverished neighborhood to the
level by which he or she can have a Ph.D, or M.P.H., or M.D., we need
to expose them to opportunity, make sure they don't get shot, make sure
that they don't commit crimes themselves, make sure they are protected,
and make sure they are resilient," said Amuwo. "To that end, we also
look for other funding opportunities to complement the project."

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research
funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students,
12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public
medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities
Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with
community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of
programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around
the world.

For more information about UIC, visit

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