The AZ HSI Consortium is pleased to announce the Frontera Program as an AZ HSI Evidence Based Practice. After careful review from colleagues across the state of AZ, the Frontera Program was shown to be an effective program in moving the needle towards greater college access, persistence, retention, transfer, and degree attainment for Latinx students in Arizona.

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Please read below to learn more about the Frontera Program at the University of Arizona.

Overview of Institution

The University of Arizona is an Arizona public research university and the state's oldest institution of higher education. The university serves a diverse student body of 51,134 undergraduates from Arizona, the United States, and worldwide. The student body is approximately 25.3% Hispanic, 66.0% White, 10.6% Asian, 6.7% Black or African American, 3.5% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.9% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. The university is dedicated to ensuring that all students, regardless of background, have access to a high-quality education. 

The university is an active member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities, a consortium of 21 institutions dedicated to advancing Hispanic representation in higher education and research. Specifically, the University of Arizona Health Sciences division is pivotal in the Arizona community, delivering top-notch healthcare, education, and research to a diverse population, including a substantial Hispanic demographic. This division offers various programs and services to support Hispanic students, faculty, and staff. 

Comprising five colleges and 16 centers with a strong focus on medical education, outreach, patient care, and groundbreaking research, these colleges provide various undergraduate and graduate programs within the health professions. These programs are committed to delivering rigorous and challenging education to students, preparing them for successful careers in the health professions. Graduates of the Health Sciences division are in high demand among employers owing to their exceptional preparation for professional success. 

The Health Sciences division comprises a range of esteemed branches, encompassing the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health in the Tucson and Phoenix campuses. Within these colleges, a cadre of dedicated Hispanic faculty members serve as mentors and inspirational figures for their students. 

Serving students, faculty, and staff of the colleges of the Health Sciences division is the University of Arizona Health Sciences Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (OEDI). The EDI office has a mission of increasing the diversity of the health sciences workforce, expanding the knowledge and sensitivity related to social and cultural factors that influence health and healthcare, and fostering a climate of inclusion where all members of UAHS and their partnering communities contribute to our larger goal of increasing excellence and solving health disparities. One of the programs that better reflects their mission is the BLAISER/FRONTERA summer internship. 

Overview of Program

The Focusing Research in the Border Area (FRONTERA) initiative commenced in 2007 with support from a Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools (HSHPS) grant. 

In 2013, the Border Latino and American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER) program was established to address health disparities in Arizona's rapidly growing and ethnically diverse communities. 

In the summer of 2022, these two programs merged to create a unified and more impactful initiative. The programs are supported by Arizona Area Health Education Centers (AzAHEC) and HRSA grants. 

The BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship is a 10-week research program that addresses the healthcare workforce's lack of diversity and meaningful opportunities for our rural, border, and tribal students who are economically and or educationally disadvantaged. 

The objectives of the BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship are as follows: 

  • Give interns hands-on research experience while being mentored by a UA biomedical or public health researcher. 
  • Gain theoretical knowledge and practical training in academic research and scientific experimentation. 
  • Receive professional development mentoring on applying to graduate programs from leadership and alumni. 
  • Students recognize and understand the health disparities along the US-Mexico border and are encouraged to pursue careers in health and research that address these disparities. 

The BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship program is highly competitive. Academic achievement, research experience, and a commitment to diversity are used to select applicants. 

Students conduct research under a mentor's supervision and participate in various professional development activities such as writing workshops, scientific presentations, and career planning. Students present their research findings at a poster session at the end of the program.  

Furthermore, participants have the unique opportunity to visit the United States-Mexico border region to gain insights into the health disparities prevalent in the area and engage with public health experts actively addressing them. A central goal of the program is to foster community engagement and connection. Through these initiatives, they gain invaluable insights into the operations and missions of non-profit organizations like Casa Maria, Youth on Their Own, Casa Alitas, and various others, simultaneously contributing to the community while deepening their understanding and learning. 

The BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship has made a significant difference in the lives of those who participated, with over 85% successfully continuing their respective career paths in the field. The program has assisted underrepresented students in developing the skills and knowledge required for graduate school and research careers. Many alumni have gone on to successful careers in academia, industry, and government, and they are now contributing significantly to biomedical and public health research. 

Areas program seeks to make an impact and how

The BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship is a pipeline program that provide students with the skills and knowledge required for success in graduate school and research careers, particularly in the biomedical and public health fields. 

The program's influence can be seen in the following ways: 

BLAISER/FRONTERA alumni have gone on to pursue graduate studies in biomedical or public health research, with over 85% going on to pursue careers in the field. This is much higher than the national average for students from underrepresented groups. 

Alumni of BLAISER and FRONTERA have had the opportunity, with the support of their mentors, to publish their research in peer-reviewed publications and present them at national and international conferences. 

  • A 30% increase in confidence was recorded on taking the entrance exams after the program. 

BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship alumni provide qualitative evidence of the program's impact in addition to these quantitative metrics. According to pre- and post-internship surveys given to interns, alumni reported that the program assisted them in: 

  • Boosting their motivation to pursue graduate school and research careers 
  • Developing the skills and knowledge required to apply to graduate school  
  • They are acquiring research and professional experience. 
  • Mentorship skills; get trained and support the MedStart students. This program is for juniors in High School who spend six weeks at the UA dorms. 
  • Networking and connecting with other biomedical and public health students and professionals 

One alumnus wrote: 

"The BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship was a life-changing experience for me. It allowed me to gain hands-on research experience under the mentorship of a leading biomedical researcher. The program also helped me to develop the skills and knowledge I needed to be successful in graduate school. I am now a PhD student in biomedical science at a top university, and I am confident that I will be able to achieve my goal of becoming a biomedical researcher." 

Another alumnus wrote: 

"The BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship was a great way to start my career in public health research. The program allowed me to work on a research project that was relevant to my interests, and I learned a lot from my mentor. I am now a public health researcher at a non-profit organization, and I am using the skills and knowledge I gained in the BLAISER/FRONTERA Summer Internship to make a difference in the lives of others." 

How does this program center servingness?

The BLAISER/FRONTERA program aims to diversify the health sciences workforce by equipping underrepresented undergraduate students with the necessary skills and knowledge for graduate school and research careers. Students receive a stipend, preparation for entrance exams, and tuition-free participation to ease the financial burden often faced by those working to cover their educational and living expenses, allowing them to entirely focus on their summer academic pursuits. 

Building a sense of belonging and community among peers is one of our key objectives. Recognizing the importance of family and their community support, we invite them to join us online for the opening ceremony and in person at the closing ceremony. By attending these ceremonies, family, and friends learn about the program activities and show support during the research project presentations. 

In sum, the BLAISER/FRONTERA program significantly impacts the lives of its participants and the research field as a whole. It is a model for programs dedicated to underrepresented student support and increasing workforce diversity. 

To learn more about Frontera, join our EBP Awardee Webinar on March 27th. Register here.