As I begin the second week of my new job I am still learning what my title actually means. For some, I am the HSTA (Health Sciences Technology Academy) Program Coordinator, for others I am the Curriculum and Education Program Associate. I think these two title mean the same thing, but what do I actually do? Let me see if I can explain this amazing program and my role in it.
HSTA was developed in 1994 to provide math and science support and enrichment to minority and underrepresented students from West Virgina's rural communities. The goals of the program included shepherding these students through precollege, college and graduate training in health professions and programs and encouraging these students to return to practice their careers in an underserved area of West Virginia. Through school year club programs and summer campus programs at WVU, Marshall University, and West Virginia State all of the HSTA students are exposed to intensive academic enrichment emphasizing science and math for each grade from 9th through 12th as well as laboratory experiences where students work with scientists/clinical practitioners. Our ninth grade students participate in a Fun with Science camp, our tenth grade students participate in a Forensics science camp, and our eleventh grade students are involved with a Biomedical component.
Since the inception of this program the focus has been on relevant issues of WV Health. Currently the focus of our program is the obesity and Type II Diabetes epidemic in WV. Much attention has been drawn to the fact that WV ranks number one in the nation for percentage of the population that is obese and the prevalence of Type II Diabetes. HSTA students in our Biomed program (11th grade) are currently invovled in a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) project in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh. One of the goals of this project is to guide students and teachers in research projects involving life-style interventions in communities where they transmit their knowledge and understanding of research and clinical trials to their parents and community members in order to address critical barriers to progress in healthy lifestyles.
So, what does all that mean to me, and what do I do? In a very simplified answer: I support the teachers in the clubs accross the state with their research projects related to our Diabetes Education project. I organize the summer Biomed component of this research project., and I act as a research associate on the diabetes research project. It all still seems a little fuzzy to me, but I am learning everyday and LOVING every minute of it!