Students awarded HOPE Scholarships

Biomedical Science Careers Program marks 20th anniversary of advancing minorities

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

May 09, 2011

Third-year Clinical Health and Population Research PhD candidate Yendelela L. Cuffee, MS, was awarded a 2011 HOPE Scholarship from the Biomedical Science Careers Program for students from backgrounds underrepresented in the health professions.

The Biomedical Science Careers Program was founded in 1991 to identify, inform, support and provide mentoring for academically outstanding students from the six New England states, particularly African American, Hispanic American and American Indian/Alaskan Native students. Since then, more than 8,000 minority students and more than 1,000 post-doctoral trainees and junior faculty have participated in BSCP programs—including two students this year who are affiliated with UMass Medical School: one a doctoral candidate and the other an undergraduate who participated in summer programs at UMMS. 

Yendelela L. Cuffee, MS, a third-year student in the Clinical and Population Health Research (CHPR) PhD Program, and Alexander Tejeda, a junior at Dartmouth College who in 2010 participated in the UMMS Summer Enrichment Program for college undergraduates, have been awarded BSCP 2011 HOPE (Horizons, Opportunity, Potential and Excellence) Scholarships. Each two-year HOPE award provides graduate school tuition support: $5,000 in year one, and $2,500 in year two. 

Cuffee and Tejeda were recognized at the BSCB’s 14th annual Evening of Hope in Boston on April 28. With Governor Deval Patrick in attendance as the guest of honor, this year’s celebration marked the organization’s 20th anniversary. BSCB was established by members of the Harvard Medical School Minority Faculty Development Program, the New England Board of Higher Education and the Massachusetts Medical Society to increase the representation of minorities in the biomedical and biotechnology fields while helping health care institutions, biotechnology firms, educational institutions, professional organizations and private industry members meet their need for a diverse workforce. 

Prior to entering the CPHR program at UMMS, Cuffee earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Hampton University and a master’s degree in epidemiology from New York Medical College. Her dissertation research focuses on investigating the root causes of cardiovascular health disparities, and focusing on the psychosocial and behavioral predictors of medication non-adherence.

“Through this program I am provided the opportunity to apply advance analytical methods that examines racial and ethnic disparities, and receive first-hand experience developing culturally sensitive interventions aimed at reducing health disparities,” she said. Cuffee’s involvement with BSCP has included a poster presentation at the 2010 New England Science Symposium, an oral presentation at the 2011 New England Science Symposium, and membership on the BSCP New England Science Symposium planning committee. After completing her studies at UMass Medical School, she hopes to continue research aimed at identifying and reducing health disparities among African Americans and designing interventions that promote medication adherence among underserved populations. 

A Boston native, Tejeda plans to attend medical school upon completing his bachelor’s degree in biology, with a minor in Latin Caribbean studies, at Dartmouth. Whether he lands at UMMS or elsewhere, he will have been helped along the way by his participation in the Medical School’s Summer Enrichment Program, a tuition-free, four-week residential program for undergraduate sophomores and juniors from under-represented or disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in entering the health professions. The goals of the program are to help participants improve their qualifications and competitive standing for admission to professional, graduate and/or medical school. Tejeda plans to pursue a career in medicine and research aimed at ameliorating health disparities and developing strategies to improve health equity. 

In 2010, PhD student Charisa Cottonham, GSBS ’11, also received a BSCB HOPE Scholarship. 

“BSCP acknowledges potential and talent in the program’s participants,” said Cuffee. “It is truly an honor to receive the HOPE Scholarship.” 

Related Links: 

Clinical Population and Health Research PhD Program 
UMMS College Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) 

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