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New grant focuses on diversity, research

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

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Media Contact: Traci Peterson, Office:817-272-9208, Cell:817-521-5494, tpeterso@uta.edu

The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Nursing will use a new $419,000 federal grant to bolster recruitment of minorities to its nursing Ph.D. program with hopes of addressing cultural disparities in health research and patient care.

Jennifer Gray

The grant – a three-year award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – will provide funds to recruit candidates from historically underrepresented groups and ensure the success of students through mentoring, professional socialization and enhanced academic advising. Administrators expect that their efforts will result in more students and graduates doing research related to disparities and provide more Ph.D.-prepared nurses to increase the number of minority faculty in nursing programs.

“The shortage of Ph.D.-prepared nurses is especially acute among minority nurses, ” said Jennifer Gray, associate dean of the UT Arlington College of Nursing and principal investigator on the new grant. “As we have more and more minority patients seeking healthcare, we need minority healthcare providers who better understand their culture and could possibly be more effective.”

Studies have long identified disparities in health outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities, who have higher rates of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes and less access to health care. State and federal officials have called on the health care community to take steps to address disparities.

The University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing is one of the largest nursing programs in the country, with more than 7,500 students. The new grant is another example of the university’s commitment to meeting community health care needs by increasing the number of   graduates who are well prepared as clinicians, educators, administrators and scholars, said College of Nursing Dean Elizabeth Poster.

“Each year thousands of students are turned away from nursing programs in Texas because there aren’t enough faculty members to teach them. This program is one of the ways UT Arlington is addressing this shortage and helping to make the health care workforce more diverse,” she said.

The University’s nursing Ph.D. program began in 2003 and currently includes more than 50 students. The program’s curriculum focuses on what nurse researchers can do to improve care for vulnerable populations, Gray said. In recent years, Ph.D. students have conducted research on ethnic differences related to the incidence of renal failure, how cultural backgrounds affect expectant mothers’ medical experiences and the sensitivity of cardiac screening methods for Hispanic women.

“We don’t have as much information about what would work to improve health outcomes for minority patients, especially African-Americans,” Gray said. “By focusing our curriculum on racial and ethnic disparities and vulnerable populations, part of what we’re trying to do is prepare scientists who are sensitive to cultural and ethnic issues.”

The College of Nursing’s focus on disparities is an example of the research under way at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of 33,439 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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