Students from 17 different universities and colleges across the U.S. immerse themselves in this three-month summer program to explore fields in health services research at Penn.

The year’s Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) program started with a “Sculling on the Schuylkill” challenge on May 29, at Philadelphia’s historic Boathouse Row.

An initiative by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) and Wharton’s Health Care Management Department, SUMR provides underrepresented minority undergraduate students, or interested others, an opportunity to explore the field of health services.

The 23 new scholars from 17 different universities and colleges was the first SUMR cohort to row its way into the three-month program.

“We try to begin each new SUMR program with an ice-breaking and team-building event that also enables the scholars to experience some unique aspect of Philadelphia,” said Joanne Levy, MBA, MCP, Founding Director of the SUMR program. “I think rowing on the Schuylkill is about as historic as it gets and certainly promises to encourage interaction and teamwork along with great fun in a very scenic location.”

Broadening the Cultural Lens

Established in 2000, SUMR offers students potentially interested in health care careers the opportunity to immerse themselves in Penn’s community of health services researchers.Disparities in health care access and quality among different racial and ethnic groups are widespread and well-known.

SUMR is a pipeline for the growth of underrepresented minority researchers who bring broader cultural sensitivities and perspectives into national health care policies and practices.

This year’s cohort of scholars come from Penn and 16 other schools across the country, including Cornell, Boston, Morgan State, Georgetown, Spelman, and Swarthmore.

A sense of their cultural diversity can be found in their areas of linguistic fluency: Arabic, Portuguese, French, Fulani, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hebrew, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. Four of them are also the first in their family to go to college.

Research with Real-World Applications

For three months, scholars engage in dynamic lectures and meet with Penn’s top health services scientists on research projects of the student’s choice, which include:

  • A qualitative analysis of race, racism, and psychological stress among VA patients living with chronic kidney disease.
  • A study of the health burden of chronic pain on racial and ethnic minorities.
  • A project to integrate and use social media and statewide data to build and validate a tool for monitoring and predicting high morbidity health trends and real-time dynamic health events.
  • A research effort to better understand the mechanisms underlying the transgenerational effects of early life stress on children.

The design and evaluation of an emergency department decision support tool for physicians and patients involved in acute pain care that may require prescribed opioids.

Upon the program’s completion, scholars have a chance to present on mentored health services research projects at the closing symposium.

Sculling on the Schuylkill

The SUMR kick off event took place at the Bachelors Barge Club at #6 Boathouse Row — the country’s oldest continuously operated boathouse and home of the Drexel University Crew Teams.

The event was managed by Team Concepts, Inc., a team-building and leadership development firm staffed by Olympic sculling coaches.

Scholars were assigned to rowing teams and received classroom training and dry-land practice on rowing machines before they got in the water. SUMR scull teams raced each other through a 500-meter course on the river.

— This story was adapted from an article by Hoag Levins that originally appeared on the LDI website.

Posted: June 7, 2018

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