RCMI International Symposium on Health Disparities

Entitled “Translating Science to Better Health: The Power of Diversity and Multicultural Engagement”, Puerto Rico hosted the 13th International Symposium on Health Disparities of the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Program of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), that took place October 10 – 13, 2012, at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. The conferences focused on diseases that disproportionately affect minority populations, such as: cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases. A large group was in attendance, 1,200 participants, among which were affiliates from local university institutions, Puerto Rican and U.S government officials, and health industry representatives. Also participating notably were one Nobel Prize winner, renowned scientists, health professionals of various disciplines, graduate students, and, especially, 150 Puerto Rican high school students, grades 10-12.
The high school students are singled out since a special program was designed with their interests in mind. Fifteen public and private schools were invited, and an emphasis on health sciences and biomedical research was made, highlighting the theme of “Future Researchers”. Each group was accompanied by a professor and a parent. Attendance fees, transportation expenses (round-trip from each school), lunch and promotional items, were all paid for by the Symposium and local sponsors.
These students were able to have a real life experience regarding the world of science. They had the opportunity of being exposed to demonstrations and events concerning the advanced technology utilized in research laboratories throughout the island (e.g., proteomic and genomic), and attended activities with scientific leaders (basic, clinical and academic) in the subjects of HIV, neurosciences and asthma prevention. At conclusion, they visited the exhibitions and posters accompanied by a scientific expert. Certainly this activity was greatly received and surpassed expectations, providing the motivation to repeat anew its promotion.