MHIRT: Minority Health International Research Training

Application Information

Thank you for your interest in UVA's MHIRT program. Regretfully, this grant has now ended and is no longer accepting applications as of July 2019.

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What is UVA MHIRT?

The UVa MHIRT Program is an international research assistant training program for current undergraduate minority students that begins in late-January, upon acceptance, and lasts approximately one year even though the summer research experience is only 8 weeks in-country. The program includes a weekend research retreat at UVa in late winter/early spring, a 3-5 day pre-departure week at UVa before you travel to your international partner site, 8 weeks, full time (40+ hours per week), participating in a mentored summer research experience at one of our international partner sites, followed by a debrief back at UVa with an intensive week of data analysis, writing, and presentations. After the summer concludes, you will continue to work with faculty and your team on analyzing data, drafting papers, and submitting posters and abstracts to present at local and national conferences.

By extending the analysis of global rural health disparities using an interdisciplinary approach to appreciate more completely the complexity of global health and disease, this highly competitive program offers under-represented minority students training and professional development experience, which facilitates more desirable applications to graduate training and professional schools. Furthermore, it offers the opportunity to develop essential skills for future success in conducting independent research.

Selected candidates will serve as a research assistant at one of several international partner sites including Uganda, South Africa, and Ecuador. Supported by strong and enduring partnerships at UVa and with collaborating international sites, the MHIRT program promotes multiple opportunities for hard working, outstanding under-represented minority students to develop professional research skills that are relevant to future health science careers and to make enduring contributions to the field.  


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Who is Eligible to Apply?

Applications are encouraged from students from both UVa and outside of UVa. Current undergraduate students who meet ALL of the following requirements are eligible to apply:

  1. Citizens or a non-citizen national of the United States, or have been lawfully admitted to the US for permanent residence (i.e., possess a currently valid Alien Registration Receipt Card I-551, or other legal verification of such status).  Non-citizen nationals are generally persons born in outlying possessions of the US (e.g., American Somoa). 
  2. Undergraduate students must be enrolled as a full time undergraduate student in the fall semester following the summer of program participation (i.e. Fall 2018). 
  3. The student trainee must be a member of a health disparity population underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, or social sciences. This includes racial and ethnic minorities (African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders), individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, and individuals from rural areas are also strongly encouraged to apply. Those from rural backgrounds, please see Am I Rural? for more information. To qualify as a rural applicant, you must be classified as "micropolitan" or "rural".
Please note that individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible to participate in the MHIRT Program.
Students who speak Spanish and who are interested in conducting research in a spanish speaking country are strongly encouraged to apply for the summer 2019 cohort. 

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Application and Selection Process:

  • Please submit all required materials through the online application form below. Letters of recommedation can be emailed to us via this link.
  • Applications will be accepted until the closing date and will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Early applications are encouraged. Late or incomplete submissions will not be considered. This includes late letters of recommendation. It is your responsibility to ensure we have received your reference letters by the deadline.
  • Interviews will take place in January. If you are local to UVA you will be asked to travel for an in-person interview. Students from outside UVA will have a Skype interview.
  • Applicants will be notified of the decisions of the selection committee by mid-January.
  • Applicants who have been offered a space must confirm acceptance into the program by January 31. 

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What are the goals of MHIRT?

The NIH outlines the goals of the MHIRT program as follows:

  • Encourage undergraduate, graduate, and/or health professions students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences to pursue careers in biomedical and/or behavioral health research fields
  • Provide training in collaborative research conducted in foreign settings to undergraduate, graduate, and/or health professions students
  • Broaden the research interests and scientific training of undergraduate, graduate, and/or health professions students from minority backgrounds to encompass international health issues
  • Expose students from minority backgrounds to research initiatives that address health disparities globally

What Should I Expect?

  • You are expected to fully participate in a rigorous, full time, intensive research assistant program where the hours will be long, the weather will be hot and the bugs many in an international location where the primary mode of transportation is walking. You will be required to participate fully in all research related activities and produce work that is of exceptional quality. You should be open to new experiences and perspectives and be willing to have open and honest communication at all times with your fellow research assistants, graduate mentors, and faculty. In return, you will have a life changing experience that prepares you for a career in research, academia, and/or the medical fields.

  • If you are selected, your participation begins immediately upon acceptance in January.  You will receive reading and writing assignments, participate in regular Skype calls, and attend a weekend research introduction – all before coming to UVa for the pre-departure week prior to leaving for the international partner site.

  • You will participate in a mandatory weekend research introduction at UVA in late winter/early spring where you will meet your faculty mentors in person to prepare for the summer research projects. During the retreat you will become very familiar with the IRB process for your site and research project, the scope of the research project, tasks to be accomplished, and work with your faculty mentors to devise a detailed task list and research plan for the summer. You will also participate in a range of research method workshops.

  • In late May/early June you will arrive at UVA for a pre-departure week where you begin your training with 3-5 days with your fellow research assistants, graduate mentors, and faculty. During the day you will prepare for the cultural aspects of conducting international research and continue to make adjustments to your research work plan. You are expected to actively participate in workshops covering a range of topics including professionalism in an international setting, cultural awareness and sensitivity training, community engaged research workshops, and sessions on research skills and data management. In the evenings, you will have readings and assignments to complete for the following day. By the end of the week you will be expected to provide a detailed description and presentation of your research project to a wide variety of audiences and have the skills to conduct ethical, culturally sensitive international research. 

  • Following the pre-departure week at UVA, you will travel to our international partner site to conduct research over 8 weeks according to your research plans. 

  • After spending time in-country you will return to UVA for a one week data analysis and debrief week culminating in poster and oral presentations open to the University community. The days again will continue to be long as you work with your team to analyze data, draw conclusions, draft your poster, and prepare your presentations. You will also have debrief sessions where you will reflect on your experience and plan ahead for your academic and career goals.

  • Upon returning from UVA after an intensive summer, the program doesn't end. You will continue to engage with your graduate mentors and faculty on drafting manuscripts, submitting papers for publication, and submitting posters to present at local and national conferences. This is the opportunity for you to demonstrate the research skills you have gained and to work hard to achieve your own career and academic goals. You will also serve as a mentor to subsequent cohorts and provide annual updates on your progress towards your future plans including graduate school acceptances, summer fellowships etc. Past students have gone on to graduate school abroad and accepted Fulbright awards. With hard work and dedication, you too will be able to achieve significant accomplishments. 

  • In order to benefit fully from the MHIRT program, you must meet all stated deadlines for submitting pre-departure documents and assignments.  This includes communicating with your mentor(s) and the administrators of the fellowship, obtaining your passport, vaccines, travel visa, and completing on-line training modules and writing assignments. Failure to meet any deadline will result in immediate dismissal from the program and reimbursement of any monies paid. Students who do not demonstrate a strong work ethic and produce quality assignments during the weekend retreat and pre-departure weeks will be dismissed from the program, will not receive their stipend, and will not travel abroad.

  • Annually you will be required to submit an update on your research progress, accomplishments, conference attendance, and other academic updates. 

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As an MHIRT Trainee:

You will receive a monthly stipend.  This will be paid directly to you via paper check to the address you provide. The purpose of the stipend is to cover your living expenses during the fellowship (all 10 weeks: at UVA and the international site). We anticipate these amounts will remain the same for the 2018 cohort of students. You will be paid in three installments providing satisfactory completion of required research activities, effort, and a positive review on your mid term evaluation. 

Undergraduate Research Assistant ------  $1,200 per month  ($3,000 total)

Masters level Graduate Assistant  -------   $1,600 per month  ($4,000 total)

Pre-doctoral Graduate Assistant ---------   $2,000 per month  ($5,000 total)

Travel.  Transportation to and from UVA for the weekend research introduction and for the pre-departure week will be covered. Round trip airfare and ground transporation to and from your international site, and pre-approved in-country transportation will also be covered. You will be responsible for travel costs associated with any group weekend activities. 

Insurance. The MHIRT program will also cover costs for the required international health insurance as determined by the program coordinator.

Lodging. MHIRT will cover lodging costs at UVA for 2 weeks (if needed) and at the international site for 8 weeks.

There are additional costs that will be incurred by you once selected and prior to arrival at UVA such as obtaining a passport, getting all necessary vaccinations and medications, and obtaining a travel visa (if required by the site country). 

Some of these additional costs may be covered or reimbursed by UVA.  If you need financial assistance, please contact the program coordinator for approval before incurring costs.

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What Have Past Trainees Said About the Experience?

"I would just stress that you should be ready to work hard and be flexible"

"I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a student as well as a person throughout this program."

"...Take advantage of every second they have in this program. I valued my whole experience during pre-departure week and in St. Kitts and Nevis."

"I would advise future fellows to use their resources and community that surround them. Having people working beside you is the best resource, and being able to work together and accomplish tasks together is the best way to manage time. Also, having open communication and talking about the tasks that need to be done helps prioritize your time. And don't forget to take time for yourself!"

"I would tell them to take time to process and reflect on the things they are being exposed to and experiencing. I would recommend that they view the research not only on its surface, but to also take into account how the culture they are serving influences and benefits from the project. Future fellows should also spend time making connections with the people they are working with."

"Use every opportunity to learn and engage with what the country has to offer. To allow the experience to benefit you by being open minded. Try to learn the language, customs, try the food, etc."

"How impactful the country would be on making future plans. I didn't expect to leave a piece of my heart behind in the country. Making connections with the culture. Having never been outside of my home country before, my experience abroad helped me to conquer so many fears and broaden my horizons as a person and student."

"I don't think I expected to develop strong relationships with my team members. These are people that became my family and I learned a lot from each one of them. I have also developed an academic and professional network that I did not expect to have."

"From my in-country partners, I learned to look at situations through different perspectives as opposed to just one lens. There are more than one opinion, option, or right answer."

"I was surprised about how much I have grown personally. I feel more confident in my skills and my ability to be independent and self-reliant."

Application Information

Please click the blue "Apply Now" button below to submit your application. To preview the application form please click here.

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