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Arnold School of Public Health

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New training program recruits underrepresented undergraduate students to join maternal and child health field

August 23, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

Just one year after epidemiology professor Jihong Liu established the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Catalyst Program with a $450,000 grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration, the program has already launched a graduate scholars program, MCH-focused poster and abstract competitions and an MCH graduate certificate.

With an additional $775,000 grant from HRSA, Liu and her team will develop the UofSC MCH Leadership, Education, and Advancement in Undergraduate Pathways (LEAP) training program to support undergraduate students from underserved or under-represented backgrounds. Over the next five years, the LEAP program will recruit and provide individual mentoring/academic support to 150 undergraduate trainees while enhancing their knowledge, skills and interest in MCH-related graduate programs and healthcare professions.

“We desperately need to increase our public health work force to address the growing and emerging public health challenges we face in South Carolina and beyond,” says Thomas Chandler, Dean of the Arnold School. “I am particularly excited about the addition of this undergraduate program because it will help us recruit talented and well-trained students into the field and support them as they become the next generation of public health leaders.”

“South Carolina residents are racially diverse with 27 percent of the population living in rural areas. The state has many maternal and child health disparities, yet our public health and healthcare workforce is primarily White, aging, and not representative of the populations served,” adds Liu. “Our goal with the LEAP program is to help bridge the transition of students from underserved or under-represented backgrounds to graduate education in MCH or public health and healthcare professional jobs.”

Building on the MCH program’s interdisciplinary approach, LEAP will partner with groups outside the Arnold School (e.g., student services offices, academic departments, state organizations) to recruit and support trainees. They will work closely with the Arnold School’s Office of Undergraduate Services (led by associate dean Sara Corwin), which oversees the education of nearly 2,400 bachelor’s students – the largest undergraduate program in the U.S. among schools of public health.

The larger MCH Catalyst Training Program already links 40 MCH faculty experts from five departments with researchers from across the health sciences and the university. Through the program’s diverse collaborations and partnerships, students will have access to opportunities in the areas of experiential learning, professional development, cultural/linguistic competence and responsiveness, and more.

Eligible trainees include undergraduate students who self-identify as African American/Black or Hispanic/Latinx, are first generation students who attend college, or come from low-income families regardless of race/ethnicity. Program content/activities for LEAP students will be interdisciplinary in nature, offered through multiple/mixed modalities, integrated into existing degree requirements/courses, and include regular seminars and an annual summit. Students who commit to medium- to longer-term tracks in the program will receive scholarship funds.

One of the biggest perks of the LEAP program is the opportunity for mentorship by faculty who represent a diverse range of expertise and backgrounds. As project director, Liu not only has extensive experience in MCH research and programming, she employs a health equity approach to both local and global collaborations. Monique Brown, assistant professor of epidemiology and deputy director for the program, has published widely in the areas of HIV intervention and prevention; childhood trauma; social, behavioral and mental health; and aging. Other faculty mentors include associate professor of health promotion, education and behavior Lucy Ingram, assistant professor of health services policy and management Bankole Olatosi, clinical associate professor of epidemiology and director of the Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies Myriam Torres, and associate professor of athletic training/exercise science and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toni Torres-McGehee.


Maternal and Child Health Catalyst Program recognizes undergraduate, graduate student winners of iPoster and abstract competitions

Arnold School’s Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program selects inaugural Maternal and Child Health Graduate Scholars

Jihong Liu wins grant to advance Arnold School training and curriculum in maternal and child health

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