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Partnering to Expand Opportunities for HBCU Scholars

The first two students to complete the program through the new partnership between Tuskegee and Auburn Universities: Quenetta Baldwin, Junior, left, and Sydney Jones, Senior, with MDM’s Founder and President Toni Vines after presenting their research in Nashville, Tennessee. (PROVIDED)

After being asked to serve as the American Heart Association’s 2021 Heart Ball Honorees, Toni and Tim Vines, both of whom serve as Mercy Deliverance Ministries board members, chose the American Heart Association’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Scholars Program as their platform for the year. The decision was made to expand the program by forming a new partnership between students from Tuskegee University and volunteer researchers from nearby Auburn University.

In April, MDM saw the first two Tuskegee students present their projects in Nashville, Tennessee at the AHA’s HBCU Research Symposium. Both performed research under mentors from Auburn University.

Sydney Jones, a senior majoring in dietetics, worked under the mentorship of Dr. Austin Robinson and investigated “The Influence of Habitual Dietary Sodium and Potassium on Blood Pressure in Young Adults.”

Quennetta Baldwin, a junior majoring in biology/chemistry, worked under the mentorship of Dr. Angela Calderon and investigated “Development of a TLC Method to Assess the Identity of Euterpe Oleracea Fruit, Raw Materials, and Capsules.”

Currently, MDM is enrolling the next four students.

The HBCUs Scholars Program is a partnership between The American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate and historically Black colleges in the region. The ultimate goal is to “close the gap of health disparities and inequities.”

The AHA hopes to achieve this goal by having well-educated and trained African-American clinicians and researchers return to their cultural communities with viable solutions to eradicate heart disease and its contributing factors.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), African Americans ages 18-49 are 2 times as likely to die from heart disease than their Caucasian counterparts. African Americans ages 35-64 years are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than their Caucasian counterparts.

With “only 7 percent of medical students, 6 percent of medical school graduates, and less than 4 percent of physicians being African-American, the AHA desires to increase the number of African-American students who apply and are accepted into graduate programs.”

Students attending partnering HBCUs interested in obtaining professional degrees in the biomedical and health sciences are encouraged to apply. Each student enrolled in the program receives a stipend to help defray the cost of transportation, parking, and study materials.

“HBCU Scholars learn about the health of their communities, participate in research projects, and explore varied career paths. Volunteer mentors give the scholars invaluable professional guidance. If we’re going to close the gap in health disparities, we must have a wider array of minority researchers and medical professionals. And a strong education can grow the next generation of Black doctors, nurses, and researchers.”

Because of Tuskegee University’s rich history of research under Dr. George Washington Carver and the egregious U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study conducted from 1932-1972, this new partnership between Tuskegee and Auburn Universities is paramount.

 Not only does this partnership afford students the opportunity to explore careers in biomedical and health sciences, but it also serves to help heal social wounds and restore confidence in the research community. The more that African-Americans participate and conduct research studies, the better able they are to recruit and enroll other African-Americans as subjects. This, in turn, will provide better outcomes in the African-American community.

Mercy Deliverance Ministries’ partnership with the American Heart Association to expand the HBCU’s Scholars Program is a divine assignment by God. MDM is honored to assist AHA in its efforts to “close the gap of health disparities and inequities” as we continue to seek opportunities to “fill in the gaps” in our community at large.

Mercy Deliverance Ministries (MDM) is seeking volunteers, donations, and corporate sponsorships. For more information on how you can get involved, visit the MDM website at mercydm.org and follow MDM on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @mdmgodslove.