UConn Health Honored for Diversifying STEM Workforce

The Connecticut Science Center honors the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative with a STEM Achievement Award.

Dr. Marja Hurley accepts a 2019 STEM Achievement Award from Connecticut Science Center' Matt Fleury and Amy Sailor, and State Rep. William Petit.

Dr. Marja Hurley accepts a 2019 STEM Achievement Award from the Connecticut Science Center's Matt Fleury (left) and Amy Sailor (right), and State Rep. William Petit (second from right). (Photo by Brian Ambrose Photography)

UConn Health’s pipeline program to get more underrepresented students into health care and science fields has been recognized by the Connecticut Science Center.

The Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative (HPPI), part of the UConn medical and dental schools’ Health Career Opportunity Programs, is the 2019 STEM Achievement Award organization honoree.

“We started this initiative back in 1996 to try to diversify the student body of the medical school, the dental school, and other health professional schools in Connecticut and throughout the United States,” says Dr. Marja Hurley, associate dean for the Health Career Opportunity Programs and Aetna HPPI’s founding director. “We believe our programs have significantly contributed to STEM workforce diversity. It is really gratifying that the program is getting this type of recognition.”

The Aetna HPPI was recognized for its success in establishing a consortium of education enrichment and support programs to develop a diverse pool of students and open paths to health professions or STEM-related careers.

Activities include research experiences, clinical shadowing, admissions test preparations, and mentoring – not only by faculty and health professionals, but also by students who are further along in the HPPI pipeline. Programs are available for students ranging from middle school through college.

Hurley, who accepted the award on behalf of the program she built, says over the past 15 years, “Approximately half of the incoming medical and dental classes have participated in one or more of our programs.”

More than 560 students who participated in at least one of the Health Career Opportunity Programs have gone on to attend medical school, dental school, or graduate school.