‘Bench’ is COEC’s longest standing program and best practice model as referenced in the historical overview. Moving forward, we have designed Bench to more closely align with CET’s mission and scope centered on environmental health sciences, which will harness CET resources to:
- Align Bench participants with cutting edge environmental health and disaster research projects
- Leverage the Environmental Toxicology Training grant trainees (pre-doctoral and post-doctoral) as mentors to sharpen their critical teaching and mentoring skills
- Contextualize environmental health and disaster research through community-based research within students’ own coastal community
Bench is an advanced biomedical training program for qualified Galveston Independent School District high school students (juniors and seniors) paired with a graduate student or postdoctoral trainee mentor. Bench students spend a full year working on an advanced research project in the laboratories of Center and UTMB scientists, earn high school course credits, present their research to the UTMB research community, and experience full emersion in the research enterprise. Bench mentors have credited the program with providing valuable teaching experience and with sharpening their scientific training and science communication skills. Bench also includes a recently added enrichment component that provides college and career planning, particularly aiding high school students with developing an “academic ladder.” In addition to tracking enrollment numbers, scientific presentations, and engagement and education opportunities, Bench metrics include pre- and post-surveys measuring scientific knowledge, teaching/mentoring skills, and interest and intent to pursue both scientific and environmental health academic and professional careers. Annually, we enroll 8-16 student/mentor pairs to develop either independent research projects or companion projects that support current laboratory research projects. High school students work in state-of-the-art science laboratories under intensive mentorship (minimum of 4 hours/week) with a graduate student or postdoctoral trainee and a faculty sponsor as mentors. They learn to design and implement research projects and make two formal presentations to staff, faculty, students, fellows, and parents at mid-term and end of the school year. In addition to formal presentations, both students and mentors present in various professional and community settings, including COEC’s Teen SCI Café series where they dialog with middle school students, parents, and teachers about their current research, and college and career planning for the sciences. For more information about Bench, please contact Amber Anthony.
Drs. Croisant and Prochaska teach in the Preventive Medicine and Community Health MPH program in a new Foundations in Public Health course, which utilizes case-based teaching methods including toxicology, environmental health and risk assessment, management and communication; emergency preparedness and disaster response, community-based participatory research; applied environmental epidemiology; and environmental policy and law. Each year, approximately 20 students complete this course as part of their MPH studies. Drs. Croisant and Prochaska also participate in the environmental health component of “Public Health Boot Camp,” which exposes medical and physician assistant students to public health principles and practices on an annual basis. To date, they have engaged over 50 boot camp students who have gone on to medical residency and clinical practice across Texas. Dr. Croisant also lectures School of Medicine students on CBPR, which is a required approach for their community-based projects. Dr. Prochaska also lectures to approximately 100 physician assistant students annually about risk assessment and the need to consider environmental exposures when evaluating patients.
Career Development and Workforce Training:
To enhance the capacity of the CET to engage in environmental health community-based research, the COEC offers opportunities to junior faculty to be involved in community-based projects as well as provide one-on-one support, including customizable education and development. The COEC works closely with the CRT coordinator to provide junior faculty supported by the Mentored Career Development program.