Let Knowledge Serve Representation

Increasing diversity in health sciences careers and research

Carlos Crespo, director of the PSU School of Community Health, started bringing local community college students to Portland State for summer research opportunities about five years ago, but he learned students need a lot more than just a summer experience to help them pursue a health research career.

Crespo now directs EXITO, a $24 million NIH grant-supported program that recruits and supports diverse students to pursue advanced degrees and careers in health, science, and technology. Program participants are undergraduates who receive academic advising, training, faculty mentorship, and funding to advance their research interests over their four-year degree.

Growing from that single partnership with Portland Community College years ago, PSU now partners with nine schools through EXITO—including OHSU, University of Alaska-Anchorage, and University of Hawaii—and serves 10 times as many students. Students are recruited as freshman in cohorts of about 60-70, and pursue their own research interests such as social determinacy of health, neurobiology, attention-deficit disorder, and more.

The program is open to all students, but an emphasis is placed on recruiting underrepresented minority students, students with disabilities, and those who have been through the foster care system. “At the end, we want to have a more diverse pool of students interested in biomedical research,” Crespo says.

At Portland State University, we believe knowledge works best when it serves the community.