Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2004
(Sept. 8, 2004) – Five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
and a leading Virginia community college are partnering with the
University of Nebraska and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to
create a special program to provide a multitude of academic and research
opportunities for minority undergraduate students and faculty.
Virginia-Nebraska Alliance, the ultimate goal of the unique partnership
is to increase the number of minority health professionals and
researchers nationwide, with the hope of promoting better health
outcomes for underrepresented minorities.
impetus for this partnership is the national need recognized by all of
the institutions to reduce disparities in access to quality health care
based on racial and ethnic status, economic and social circumstances.
Though racial diversity in the United States is increasing, there is a
significant lack of racial diversity in health care policy,
administration, researchers and health practitioners.
State Sen. Benjamin Lambert III, a key player in bringing Virginia and
Nebraska for the partnership, is thrilled with the alliance. “This opens
up opportunities for African-Americans to attend professional school.
This is something we really need,” he said. “The numbers of
African-Americans pursuing health careers has dropped. This will really
enhance the opportunities for students to become doctors, dentists and
other health professionals.”
Sullivan, M.D., chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee on HBCUs,
echoed Sen. Lambert’s feelings about the alliance. “This really has the
potential for being a model that can be used in many places,” he said.
“This is a model that deserves the careful scrutiny of all 106 HBCUs.”
Sullivan is president emeritus of Morehouse School of Medicine in
Atlanta and served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993. He
intends to cite the Virginia-Nebraska Alliance at the annual meeting of
the President’s Advisory Council on HBCUs, which begins Sept. 12 in
Washington, D.C. He is chairman of the council. In addition, he will
allude to the alliance when he makes a presentation at the National
Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 20, as part of his duties as
chairman of the Sullivan Commission, an organization that looks at the
status of health professionals in terms of diversity.
agreement focuses on four key areas: student exchanges to cultivate
undergraduate students’ interest in pursuing graduate education in
health and basic sciences; research and clinician faculty exchanges;
faculty research collaboration; and institutional collaboration for
Participants at the signing ceremony will be: Sen. Lambert; Dr.
Sullivan; Sidney A. McNairy Jr., Ph.D., D.Sc., National Institutes of
Health; Harold M. Maurer, M.D., chancellor, University of Nebraska
Medical Center, Omaha, Neb.; Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., president, Virginia
Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va.; Jay Noren, M.D., executive vice
president and provost of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.;
William R. Harvey, Ph.D., president, Hampton University, Hampton, Va.;
Alvin Schexnider, Ph.D., acting president and executive vice president,
Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Va.; John Waddell, Ph.D., president
of St. Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, Va.; Eddie N. Moore, Jr., Ph.D.,
president of Virginia State University, Petersburg, Va.; Belinda C.
Anderson, Ed.D., president, Virginia Union University, Richmond; and
Gary Rhodes, Ed.D., president, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College,
always interested in initiatives that encourage more minority students
to enter into the health professions as careers and this initiative
helps further that goal,” said Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner.
“I am very
pleased to see the university is taking the lead in expanding
opportunities for minority students to study and perform research here,”
Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns said. “Creating opportunities for
undergraduates to make connections with faculty at one of the country's
leading medical research programs is an important part of this
partnership is important for the medical center,” Dr. Maurer said. “Our
faculty and staff are committed to mentoring and encouraging these
bright and energetic students to choose and succeed in the health
professions. This also will enable faculty from all involved
institutions to further develop their interests in an invigorating
setting, whether they be research or clinical endeavors. Eliminating or
at least reducing health disparities is crucial. This is a unique
opportunity to improve diversity on our campus and in the health
professions, not only in Nebraska, but beyond.”
spent 25 years at the VCU School of Medicine in Richmond, 17 of which
were spent serving as professor and chair of the department of
Virginia-Nebraska Alliance provides an unprecedented opportunity for two
major medical centers to work in concert with five historically black
colleges and universities and a community college on behalf of providing
not only access to first-rate graduate and professional programs, but to
collaborative research opportunities as well,” said Dr. Trani. “I hope
that once this alliance has proven to be successful, and mutually
beneficial to all of the institutions involved, it will become a model
for other similar collaborations to develop across the country.”
Milliken, J.D., president of the University of Nebraska, said: “I am
excited about the opportunities for collaboration among all campuses of
the University of Nebraska and the participating Virginia universities,
and I compliment Chancellor Maurer and UNMC for leading the way. This
affiliation can be an effective way of providing educational and
research opportunities in addressing the disparities that exist in our
currently has academic affiliation agreements with Dillard University in
New Orleans, Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and the University of
Arkansas at Pine Bluff. In addition, agreements are being negotiated
with Morehouse College and Spelman College, both in Atlanta, Bennett
College in Greensboro, N.C., and Tennessee State University in Memphis.
VCU has a long history of working with Virginia’s HBCUs as well as other
of the nation’s prestigious HBCUs.
Pamies, M.D., UNMC vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the joint
partnership is an effort to help HBCUs meet their objectives in
educating underrepresented minorities and providing research
is the driving force that can address minority health disparities and
access issues,” Dr. Pamies said. “The bottom line is that students and
faculty at UNMC and each institution will benefit. We want their
students to have these opportunities…to get diverse experiences across
partners have made a commitment to facilitate collaboration at their
institutions so talented students can get the knowledge and skills to
flourish in their chosen fields of science. We are working hard with
other minority institutions across the country. We have a track record.
We need to address the growing problems in the minority community of
diabetes, cancer, stroke and asthma.”
potentially more funding opportunities are available for the
collaborating universities. “There are grants we can garner together
that we can’t alone. We all bring a lot to the table. The potential for
funding is huge,” Dr. Pamies said.
will include student research opportunities during the summer, faculty
exchanges, seminars and presentations, and collaborative grant
applications. Students participating in summer research spend at least
two summers at UNMC and are typically supported by stipends and possibly
supplemental funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), other
federal agencies and private foundations.
Institutional Development Award Program (IDeA) and the Research
Facilities Program that are administered by the Division of Research
Infrastructure, National Center for Research Resources, NIH, already
provide substantial resources to the University of Nebraska for the
development of their research infrastructure.
alliance is an excellent way to emulate the long-range objectives for
the IDeA program,” said Dr. McNairy, a division director for the NIH. “I
am pleased and excited about the fact that the University of Nebraska is
taking such a bold step to facilitate the inclusion of HBCUs more fully
in the nation’s biomedical research agenda.”
past three years, UNMC has provided summer research experience for 40
minority undergraduate students, 26 of whom are from HBCUs. Twenty-two
of these students were awarded NIH minority undergraduate stipends.
Cherry, who participated in a UNMC summer research internship in 2004 as
a student at Virginia State University, appreciated the time UNMC
physician/researchers spent with him.
I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult because I hadn’t taken
organic chemistry yet,” Cherry said. “But it was a very nice
experience. My primary investigator was real patient with me and my lab
mates taught me organic chemistry during our breaks, so I actually
learned a whole lot.
experience was very rewarding as far as exposing me to the process of
medical research in the lab. It gave me a head start as well as some
confidence. Most importantly, the program allowed me to make lifelong
friendships with other minorities from all around the country who are on
the same path as me. It also has provided valuable lessons about school,
as well as life.”
UNMC Chancellor Maurer’s tie to Virginia, two VCU administrators have
ties to Nebraska. Dr. Trani served as assistant vice president for
academic affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) from 1976
to 1980. Marsha Torr, Ph.D., vice president for research at VCU, served
as vice chancellor for research at UNL from 1999 to 2001.
12-18 has been designated as National Historically Black Colleges and
Universities Week. President Bush is scheduled to issue a proclamation
that week honoring America’s HBCUs.