Summer Shines the Light on Diversity Programs At the Arizona Health Sciences Center

With a population that is 35-percent Latino and Native American, Arizona suffers from serious health disparities, made even more severe by the need for a more diverse biomedical and health-care workforce. 

In response, the Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC) is offering a full array of programs this summer, based in Tucson and Phoenix, to help increase the diversity of Arizona’s health-care workforce. These include an introduction to health care program for high school students to programs to train diverse professionals already in the field.  

These highly competitive University of Arizona diversity programs launch in June and range from Med-Start, a statewide summer residency program for high school seniors, now in its 46thyear, to new programs that are bringing in outstanding local and national graduate-level students and academic clinicians for advanced training.

Creating a diverse health-care workforce representative of the population it serves is a priority for Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, MD, UA senior vice president for health sciences. Thanks to his leadership, the Arizona Health Sciences Center has added two new programs to further amplify diversity in Arizona and nationally, with the introduction of BLAISER and AZ-PRIDE.

“Our existing and new diversity-and-inclusion programs serve as a national model for the development, recruitment and retention of a diverse health-care workforce,” Dr. Garcia said. “By actively investing in these programs, our final objective is for the sustained reduction of health disparities through impactful research and training the next generation of health-care professionals.”  

AZ-PRIDE Program (Tucson)

The new AZ-PRIDE Program at the AHSC in Tucson was developed to provide training in the biomedical sciences for early-career academics who come from under-represented minority backgrounds, including people with living disabilities. Funded by a $1.25 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, the program’s inaugural class includes nine junior faculty members, recruited from universities throughout the nation, who will train with AHSC faculty mentors for one year. While training at AHSC, they will gain expertise from some of the nation’s best physician-scientists in the fields of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders, with the aim to increase the number of experts in health disparities research.

The training began June 8 and includes three weeks of summer training, including a trip to the Mexico/Arizona border and distance learning in health disparities research methods to supplement direct instruction and other support programs.

Basic Medical Sciences’ High School Research Internship Program (Phoenix)

Six high school students earned research internships and will spend 6 weeks this summer wearing white coats and working on critical medical research at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. The college’s Department of Basic Medical Sciences’ High School Research Internship Program introduces teen-agers to the field of biomedical research. The intensive program began Monday, June 8, and ends with the students presenting research findings to fellow students, staff, and medical school faculty on July 17.


AHSC’s new Border Latino and American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER) program launched June 8 and will run through Aug. 12. The AHSC-funded program will focus its efforts on addressing health disparities in Arizona’s ethnically diverse and fast-growing communities. 

The 10-week, paid undergraduate research experience provides an extraordinary laboratory training opportunity, pairing the student scholars with preeminent faculty researchers at AHSC. They will gain hands-on experience as they conduct research to gain insight into some of our more challenging diseases. BLAISER is designed to help underrepresented students, including Latino, Native American and African American undergraduate juniors or seniors, become nationally competitive medical school, health professions and biosciences-focused graduate school applicants. This inaugural class includes 10 underrepresented students majoring in biology, chemistry, physiology, microbiology, engineering, computer sciences and similar fields, from border-region universities – including the University of Texas at El Paso – as well as those from all three Arizona public universities.

FRONTERA Summer Internship Program

Meeting the heath-care needs of the people of Arizona includes ensuring that those who live along its border with Mexico, home to an estimated 2 million people, are served by a health-care workforce representative of this unique, vibrant community.

Understanding the bicultural nature of life among people who share similar resources and are economically and socially interdependent is vital to the improvement of border health-care outcomes. In response, 10 students were selected for the Frontera Summer Internship Program. Frontera (Focusing Research on the Border Area), provides undergraduate students opportunities to prepare for medical school with a hands-on research experience and an increased understanding of public-health disparities in the U.S.-Mexico border region.  Participants are matched with UA faculty mentors engaged in biomedical and public-health research that has an impact on border communities. They develop an in-depth understanding of the pathway to medical school, including study and test-taking skills, preparations for the MCAT and drafting a personal statement and travel to border communities, visits to health-care facilities and public health agencies, on both sides of the US-Mexico border, and service-learning activities. The program began June 3 and continues through Aug. 11.

Med-Start Tucson

Since 1969, more than 1,000 high school students from Arizona’s most remote and under-represented areas have been accepted into the Med-Start program. The highly competitive health career interest program is a proven success with 80 percent of its participants progressing to higher education.

The Med-Start program has two goals: to address the critical shortage of a diverse health-care workforce and to provide students opportunities to explore health careers and college opportunities to successfully reach their academic and career goals. This year, 46 Med-Start Tucson students will experience college life by earning four units of college credit through the UA during the six-week program, which ends July 11. The high school students will take an English composition class, an introductory to chemistry lab and learn about college success strategies in structured “College 101” workshops.

In addition to exploring health careers, Med-Start students participate in interactive presentations throughout AHSC, learning skills needed in health professions, such as responding to trauma incidents, treating fractures and neck and spine injuries, learning dissection and suturing skills, learning to make lip balm and anti-itch lotion and touring the UA College of Medicine – Tucson human gross anatomy lab, ASTEC simulation lab and learn basic toxicology in the black worm lab. The program began May 31 and continues through July 11. 

Summer Scrubs (Phoenix)

The annual “Summer Scrubs” program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix campus has hosted teenagers each summer since 2004, serving as the only program of its kind in Arizona to provide a medical profession-focused program for ninth and 10thgraders. The highly competitive program also includes 11thgraders. Nearly 20 counselors, who are current or aspiring medical students, will serve as student mentors and camp staff.  All attendees will practice learning real medical skills at the medical school’s simulation center, participate in laboratory research, and hear from faculty representing a wide range of health care disciplines.


About The Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC)

The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC) is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. AHSC is comprised of the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, AHSC reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater desert southwest in providing cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, AHSC employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information:

For more information about AHSC diversity programs, please visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson: