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UI COM’s HCOE Receives Sprague Memorial Institute Grant to Support Programming

Students around together

The University of Illinois College of Medicine’s Hispanic Center of Excellence (HCOE) has been chosen to receive a $120,000 grant from the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute. The Sprague Grant will allow us to fund and expand two of our programs: the Program Advancing Research for Equity (PARE) and the Latino Health Sciences Enrichment Program (LaHSEP).

The Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute was founded in 1911 as a non-profit foundation with a mandate to pursue “the investigation of the cause of disease and the prevention and relief of human suffering in the City of Chicago, County of Cook, State of Illinois.”

The Hispanic Center of Excellence, under the leadership of Director Monica Vela, MD, FACP, serves to improve the health and wellness of Hispanic communities in Illinois. The HCOE delivers pathways programs that increase the number of outstanding Hispanic applicants pursuing health careers. Most of the HCOE’s program participants identify as bilingual, first-generation, low-income students residing in state-designated Health Professions Shortage Areas (HPSA) in Illinois. The HCOE serves more than 350 participants in our programs yearly.

The Program Advancing Research for Equity provides a 10-week summer research experience for undergraduates interested in addressing health inequities through research. Students are paired with UIC mentors and receive additional instruction on ethical and responsible research conduct, secondary research training and root causes of health inequities.

The Latino Health Sciences Enrichment Program is directed by Paulina Guzman at the HCOE and serves to engage undergraduate students matriculating into UIC. Students are exposed to biomedical and health science careers and acquire critical college preparatory skillsets to ensure academic success and inform plans for their future careers in science and medicine. Additionally, students engage in enrichment coursework in Math, Chemistry and English to help them transition into college.

Both programs have had extraordinary outcomes. Evaluations have shown that LaHSEP students are 20 percent more likely to graduate within four years, while more than 20 percent of LaHSEP alumni matriculate into medical or nursing graduate programs.

“Both programs have had extraordinary outcomes,” University of Illinois College of Medicine Executive Dean Mark I. Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, MBA, MHA, said. “We are so very proud of the work the HCOE continues to do and the impact it has on our communities. Congratulations to Dr. Vela and her team.”

Hispanic medical students make up 6.2 percent of all current medical students across the country. The role of the HCOE and the College of Medicine is critical to the health of Illinoisians and to addressing disparities faced by the Hispanic population. UI COM, meanwhile, graduates more Hispanic medical students than any other school in the contiguous United States. UI COM is one of only 12 Association of American Medical College (AAMC) accredited schools to have graduated over 200 Hispanic Students from 2009-2019.