Objectives: We developed and evaluated a novel National Institutes of Health-sponsored Research and Mentorship Program for African American and Hispanic medical students embedded within the international, multisite HIV Vaccine Trials Network, and explored its impact on scientific knowledge, acquired skills, and future career plans.
Methods: Scholars conducted social, behavioral, clinical, or laboratory-based research projects with HIV Vaccine Trials Network investigators over 8 to 16 weeks (track 1) or 9 to 12 months (track 2). We conducted an in-depth, mixed-methods evaluation of the first 2 cohorts (2011-2013) to identify program strengths, areas for improvement, and influence on professional development.
Results: A pre-post program assessment demonstrated increases in self-reported knowledge, professional skills, and interest in future HIV vaccine research. During in-depth interviews, scholars reported that a supportive, centrally administered program; available funding; and highly involved mentors and staff were keys to the program's early success.
Conclusions: A multicomponent, mentored research experience that engages medical students from underrepresented communities and is organized within a clinical trials network may expand the pool of diverse public health scientists. Efforts to sustain scholar interest over time and track career trajectories are warranted.