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Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research and Training (MHIRT) Program. The Center for International Rural and Environmental Health (CIREH) interdisciplinary program dedicated to research, training and education concerning global issues in public health

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Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research and Training (MHIRT) Program

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minority health and health disparities international research and training mhirt program

Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research and Training (MHIRT) Program

The Center for International

Rural and Environmental

Health (CIREH)

interdisciplinary program dedicated to research, training and education concerning global issues in public health

Special concentration on issues concerning environmental and occupational health

focus on countries with substantial agrarian economies and countries with new democracies

The Iowa Biosciences

Advantage (IBA)

Mission: maximize diversity in the biosciences

Science majors with an interest in diversity gain research experience with cutting-edge faculty and benefit from professional development seminars and a strong community of people with similar interests


The MHIRT program is funded by

the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

program staff
Program Staff
  • Tom Cook, Director of CIREH and MHIRT Program Director
  • Kristina Venzke, MHIRT Program Coordinator
  • Danielle Dahl, CIREH Secretary
  • Sarah England, Director, IBA
  • Jodi Linley, Assistant Director, IBA
  • Jessica Tellez, Program Assistant, IBA
purpose of award
Purpose of Award

Because of the significant disparity in the overall rate of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality and survival rates in minority populations as compared to the health status of the general population, there is a national need for increasing the number of well-trained minority scientists and scientists from medically underserved regions of the US in the fields of biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and health services.

purpose of award5
Purpose of Award

According to the Institute of Medicine, "for the health professionals, racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare . . . will be among the most significant challenges of today's rapidly changing health system." And, "from a public health standpoint, racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare threaten to hamper efforts to improve the nation's health."

“Medically underserved” refers to individuals that lack access to primary and specialty care either because they are socioeconomically disadvantaged and may or may not live in areas with high poverty rates or because they reside in underserved areas. Geographic isolation, socio-economic status, health risk behaviors, and limited job opportunities contribute to health disparities in underserved communities.

purpose of award6
Purpose of Award
  • The health gap between minority and non-minority Americans has persisted, and in some cases, has increased in recent years. The inclusion of underrepresented populations, such as minority populations, the medically underserved, and women in the scientific, technological and engineering workforce will enable society to better address its diverse needs.
purpose of award7
Purpose of Award
  • A primary objective of the MHIRT program is to effectively recruit and retain underrepresented minorities and students from medically-underserved backgrounds who wish to matriculate into biomedical research training programs leading to Ph.D.s, M.D./Ph.D.s, D.D.S./Ph.D.s or MPH/Ph.D.s.
  • MHIRT training is not viewed as merely an isolated international training opportunity but rather as part of a comprehensive program of nurturing and developing individuals from health disparities populations to become productive biomedical and behavioral health researchers.
  • Must be citizens or non-citizen nationals of the United States, or have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence (i.e. possess a currently valid Alien Registration Receipt Card I-551, or other legal verification of such status)
    • Non-citizen nationals are generally persons born in outlying possessions of the United States (e.g. American Samoa). Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible to participate in the MHIRT program
  • Must be from health disparities populations that have been determined to be under-represented in basic science, clinical, biomedical or behavioral health research, including, but not limited to:
    • African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and the medically underserved (i.e., socio-economically disadvantaged individuals in rural and urban areas). For more information on the definition of a medically underserved area, please contact our office or refer to the HRSA website: http://hpsafind.hrsa.gov/HPSASearch.aspx
  • Participants must be currently enrolled in a degree-seeking program, or provide proof of imminent acceptance to a degree-seeking program, at the time of submission of the MHIRT application
    • Undergraduates must have completed three years of coursework in a major related to biomedical or behavioral health science
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Priority considerations shall be given to the following:
    • Students attending the University of Iowa or the University of Northern Iowa; and
    • Students that can demonstrate financial need (e.g. copies of need-based awards and/or of University financial aid award letter).
  • Undergraduate and graduate/professional students with senior status are eligible provided they are able to comply with the obligations (stated below) to MHIRT.
terms of the award
Terms of the Award


  • The summer internship will last a minimum of ten weeks and a maximum of twelve weeks.

Covered Expenses:

  • Round trip airfare
  • Stipend-$33/day
  • Housing costs at host institution
  • Passport, pre-departure immunizations, and insurance expenses
internship placement sites
Internship Placement Sites
  • SLOVAKIA—Bratislava
  • SLOVAKIA—Trnava
  • ROMANIA—Cluj-Napoca
  • THE GAMBIA—Banjul
  • CROATIA (tentative)—Zagreb
  • YOUR CHOICE (if you already have a contact in that country)
slovakia bratislava

Slovak Medical University

  • Founded September 1, 2002
  • Provides undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate education of health care subjects and post-secondary specialization studies in medicine
  • SMU research and clinical studies are geared toward solving the problems of preventive and clinical medicine with the purpose to improve health status and quality of life, including, but not limited to:
  • public health important infections (HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, prion
  • diseases, salmonellosis, infections caused by enteral viruses,
  • nosocomial injections);
  • civilization diseases, healthy lifestyles, and community
  • programmes (cardiovascular, immunopathologic and allergic
  • diseases, osteoporosis, metabolic disorders, etc.)
  • environmental health research
  • research in cancer and chronic degenerative diseases.
slovakia trnava

The Department of Public Health, Faculty of

Health Care & Social Work

  • Established in 1994.
  • Mission: to educate university-trained professionals for nursing, rehabilitation, public health, hygienic services and institutions of social care
    • The faculty educates specialists in the field of Nursing, Rehabilitation, Public Health, Hygienic Services and Institutions in the field of Social Care in Slovakia and also in Africa.
  • Projects conducted through Trnava University specialize in:
    • Public health research, health promotion and education, especially regarding issues of health disparities
    • Immigrant health
    • Migration and public health
    • Romani (gypsy) health issues

Center for Health Policy and Public Health

Babeş-Bolyai University

  • Established within the Faculty of Political, Administrative and Communication Sciences, "Babes-Bolyai" University Cluj, Romania
    • CHPPH Mission: to develop and support interdisciplinary collaboration for needs assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of health-related programmes that respond to the complex needs of communities and individuals
    • Promotes an interdisciplinary approach to health sciences research
    • Currently initiating a wide range of research projects with researchers from variety of disciplines: Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Public Health, Communication and Public Relations, Psychology, Sociology, Public Administration, Political Sciences, Law, Economical Sciences, Geography, Information Technology
  • On-going projects include a variety of

research opportunities, such as:

    • Increasing Initiation and Duration of Breastfeeding:

Factors Influencing Breastfeeding Attitudes and Behaviors

    • Rural Health Information Assessment Study
    • Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)
the gambia

The Gambia School of Public Health

  • Founded in 1968 initially to train Environmental Health Inspectors and also act as a base for Health Education within the Gambian community
    • Gambian students pursuing the Higher National Degree (HND) program in the School of Public Health are placed in a variety of units under the Department of State for Health in order to gain firsthand experience on the nature and scope of national mandates. 
    • The School of Public Health also provides training to personnel at the National Environmental Agency
    • The School of Public Health also works closely with the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Midwifery
  • The School’s new complex building at Brikama Campus has well-equipped, modern laboratories where students are trained in analytical methods and laboratory procedures relevant to public health and environmental health sciences
  • The School of Medicine in Banjul is located next to the Royal Victoria Hospital - a 650-bed tertiary health care institution and central referral point for all health facilities in the country

Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine

(formerly Shanghai Secondary Medical School)

  • Founded in 1952 from the incorporation of St. John's Medical College (1896~1952), Aurora Medical College (1911~1952), and Tong-De Medical College (1918~1952)
  • 12,400-member staff team and 9,900 specialists in various fields. 
  • SJTUSM system includes ten colleges such as the Basic Medical College and Clinical Medical College, six affiliated university hospitals, 15 teaching hospitals, one vocational nursing school, and one national nursing school
  • Research initiatives: Ponsetti Project

The AndrijaStampar School of Public Health

  • Located in Zagreb, Croatia
  • Founded in 1926 and formally opened in 1927 by a group of public health workers led by Dr AndrijaŠtampar, with the financial support of the Rockefeller Foundation
  • In 1947, after World War II, the School became independent from the Medical School at the University of Zagreb, taking over teaching for medical students in preventive medicine subjects

Research work concentrated in the

fields of:

  • social medicine and epidemiology
  • training activities
  • medical sociology
  • health ecology
  • environmental sanitation
  • microbiology
  • informatics and statistics
  • primary health care and family medicine
obligations to the mhirt program
Obligations to the MHIRT Program
  • Students must complete a course in responsible conduct in research
    • (such as 650:270:001-- Responsible Conduct in Research, or an equivalent course) prior to the internship departure date
  • Should a participant choose to conduct research involving human subjects of their own design (rather than participate in an on-going, already approved project coordinated by the international host institution), s/he must complete and IRB application and receive IRB approval prior to the internship
    • Note: this process can be lengthy! If you are considering conducting research with human subject, please contact our office as soon as possible for further information about this process
  • Students must comply with mandatory pre-departure activities, such as orientations and training regarding research involving human subjects
    • February—TBA
    • April 11—Pre-departure Orientation
  • During the semester following project completion, students must present their research results as a means of sharing information and experiences, typically at a seminar arranged by IBA and CIREH
  • Students must complete a 10 page paper describing their research projects or internship experiences
  • Students must complete a program evaluation, both written and in person, with a MHIRT staff member
evaluation criteria
Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be read and evaluated by MHIRT

application committee members and awards will be made

based on how well they meet the following criteria:

  • Appropriateness of assignment/project to the trainee's academic level and career plans
  • A demonstration of background knowledge of research and/or technical skills for acquiring, processing and interpreting information to be gathered
  • Priority will be given to those who are interested in research pertinent to reducing and/or eliminating health disparities
  • Students who demonstrate financial need
important dates
Important Dates

Mandatory Orientation, University of Iowa:

April 11th, 2009

Depart for Internship Site:

Week of May 15th, 2009

Applications Due:

DECEMBER 5, 2008

All applicants will be notified of award decisions by Friday, December 19, 2008  

Applications can be found on-line at: