$300,000 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant to Expand Science Education Efforts

July 16, 1999

WORCESTER, Mass. - Despite a 1992 federal requirement that states enforce a prohibition on the sale of tobacco products to minors, newly released estimates indicate that in 1997 the nation's 3.76 million underage smokers consumed 924 million packs of cigarettes annually, spending $1.86 billion-which translates into nearly $480 million in tobacco company profits.

UMass Medical School (UMMS) will receive a four-year, $300,000 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to enhance existing programs geared towards making science stimulating for K-12 students. According to James Hamos, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and director of the Office of Science Education (OSE), the funding will expand upon linkages created between UMMS and Worcester's North Quadrant schools over the last five years - linkages that were accelerated with a previous HHMI grant of $175,000.

"At UMMS, we want to align ourselves with progressive views of science education. The gifts we offer as a medical school and teaching hospital - partnerships involving highly trained faculty, staff and students, mentoring, teacher workshops, internships and other hands-on activities - are crucial because they make science alive, not just a subject to be learned. And, over the last several years, we have been able to share these gifts with local K-12 students."

UMMS will use the HHMI funds to expand its outreach efforts to younger students by more fully embracing the science needs of the North Quadrant's ten elementary schools. The grant, slated for implementation September 1, will specifically be used to hire a curriculum support staff person as well as establish science education curriculum modules in each of these schools. "Many partners have worked to create clearly defined standards of what students at each level of education should be taught," Hamos said. "In the past, science education at the elementary school level has been very individualized -- based upon the interests of the teacher. One of things we've been working on at local, state and national levels is to develop, in a logical fashion, a new vision of standards-based science activities that become a curriculum. Our hope is that this standardization will eventually result in life-long literacy, and specifically science literacy, for all children."

UMass Medical School is one of thirty-five biomedical research institutions to receive an HHMI grant. The institute has awarded $23 million since 1994 through its pre-college, science education initiative, which focuses on the unique and often underutilized resources of medical schools and other biomedical research institutions. The grants help the recipients develop partnerships with neighboring schools and share their specialized labs and highly trained researchers with the community. For more information on the HHMI awards, visit their website www.hhmi.org/precollege99

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, attracting more than $92 million in research funding annually. A perennial top-ten finisher in the annual US News & World Report ranking of primary care medical schools, UMMS comprises a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research, clinical care and public service. In 1998, the UMMS system of hospitals and clinics merged with Memorial Health Care to form UMass Memorial Health Care, the clinical partner of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.