FIU College of Nursing and Health Sciences Awarded $1.13 Million NIH Grant to Continue "Research Abroad" Program

An innovative international research program for FIU undergraduate and graduate nursing and health sciences students from minority populations will continue with a newly funded grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The federal agency has awarded $1.13 million to FIU College of Nursing and Health Sciences. The funds will support the Minority Health International Research Training Program (MHIRT), which sends FIU student researchers abroad each year to receive research training from mentors and preceptors in partner institutions around the world.

MHIRT, one of the few programs of its kind in the nation, aims to attract minority nursing students into research careers, particularly focusing on disparities in health care of patients in diverse ethnicities and underserved populations with chronic illness. The grant ensures that the program, which was initially funded from 2005-2009, will be able to continue through 2013.

So far, MHIRT has provided 31 FIU students with opportunities to study abroad for one semester and benefit from a mentored international research training experience at five partner universities: University of Rome "La Sapienza" (Rome, Italy), Bielefeld University (Germany), Private University of Witten/Herdecke (Germany), Institute of Psychiatry, King's College (London, England), and Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Bogota, Columbia). The program will be adding a new university training site in Thailand with the additional NIH funding.

To participate in the program, students must complete and earn at least a "B" in their basic research course and a grade point average of at least 3.0.

Under the guidance and direction of their international mentors, the FIU students assist in conducting research on a variety of ethnic- and minority-related health care issues and learn how other countries address disparities in health care. They develop and hone their research skills by participating in research planning; collecting, managing, and analyzing data; interpreting results; and disseminating findings.

"When our students return, they'll be able to incorporate what they've learned into their nursing research careers and become advocates and leaders who will help eliminate health care disparities in their own communities," said Dr. Kathryn Anderson, Associate Professor of Nursing, and the program's director. Dr. Marie Friedemann, Professor Emerita, also works with the nursing student researchers.

"Students who've participated in the program describe it as a life-changing experience," Dr. Anderson added. "We're happy with the results, and looking forward to continuing the program."

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FIU College of Law tops the state in Florida bar exam pass rate

Graduates from FIU College of Law achieved the highest percentage among graduates of the state's ten law schools passing the Florida bar exam in February 2009, according to the Florida Bar Association.

FIU law graduates topped the state with an 81.5% pass rate for those taking the bar exam for the first time, well above the state-wide pass rate of 70.7%. Twenty-two of the 27 FIU law graduates passed the test. Across the state, 784 people took the test, which is administered twice a year in February and July.

In July 2008, 90.6% of FIU law graduates taking the Florida bar exam for the first time passed the test, placing the College of Law second among Florida's law schools in the pass rate of the bar exam. By comparison, the state-wide pass rate on the exam that year was 82.5%.

"I congratulate our students for performing admirably on the February bar exam," said Executive Vice President and Provost Ronald. M. Berkman. "The high bar pass rate reflects a student body and faculty committed to academic excellence. FIU law graduates are not only intelligent and well-trained professionals, but their hard work and dedication allow them to make an impact in the legal profession and their communities."

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FIU Professor is National Runner-up for Inspire Integrity Awards

John Bailly, a Faculty Fellow of the FIU Honors College, was recently named the national runner-up for the Inspire Integrity Awards, a national award recognizing faculty members who have exemplified a high degree of personal and academic integrity, and who have inspired students to do the same.

The Inspire Integrity Awards are sponsored by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), an honor society of high-achieving freshmen and sophomores.

The Inspire Integrity Awards took place in five regions throughout the United States. NSCS student members nominated faculty members in each region who inspired integrity through their classroom lectures, activities, and curriculum. The nominees are asked to write a brief essay on the concept of integrity and its meaning to them personally.

The 15 finalists were judged by a national selection committee, who named one runner-up and one Inspire Integrity Award recipient.

Bailly will receive a $1000 award, and NSCS will donate $1000 for scholarships for Honors College students.

Bailly believes that integrity can't be taught to students through lectures or exams. "For me, integrity develops out of the realization that ideas formed in class have a real-world embodiment and consequence," he said. "It manifests by consistently treating all with moral and intellectual dignity while expecting and inspiring the highest standard of achievement and action."

Bailly is a painter, printmaker, and teacher. He earned his M.F.A. from Yale University. His work has been exhibited in leading museums around the country including the University of Maine Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, FL.

In 2006, Bailly was awarded the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship for Visual and Media Artists, and a State of Florida Individual Artist Grant.

"I would never have been considered for this honor if it was not for the intelligent and unique Honors College students with whom I have the pleasure to work," he said. "This award is much more about their achievements than it is about me."

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FIU Student is a Champion for the Marine Environment

Growing up in the Bahamas, FIU graduate biology student Casuarina McKinney loved the clear, pristine ocean, home to an abundance of colorful marine life and countless fish species.

That love led to her concern about protecting the Nassau grouper, a fish that swims hundreds of miles and groups together by the thousands every winter in order to spawn. With local fishermen converging on spawning sites and catching tremendous numbers of fish in a relatively short time, this fish population is declining.

McKinney realized that the collapse of the species would lead to ecological disaster. "The Nassau grouper is a major predator in coral reef environments and mangrove creeks and helps keep the ecosystem in balance," she explained.

In 2002, she became the first executive director of The Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (BREEF), leading the organization's pioneering efforts to advocate for environmental policy and political change to ensure the health and survival of the marine environment.

McKinney and her team prepared a report for the Bahamian government on the status of the Nassau grouper, recommending protection of the species during the once-a-year spawning season and establishment a network of marine-protected areas, including spawning sites and nursery habitats for the fish.

To win public support, McKinney organized an intensive education and outreach campaign and launched a series of hands-on workshops to educate local teachers about the need for marine conservation.

She also worked closely with fishermen from the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and Barbados. "Our message was, let's safeguard what we have and not wait until the fish population is gone," she said.

Her crusade paid off. In January 2004, the Bahamian government adopted the first-ever, one-month ban preventing anyone from catching, selling or buying the Nassau grouper.

Last year, as a result of McKinney's advocacy, the government extended the ban to three months.

But McKinney isn't resting on her laurels. She's working to enact legislation that will permanently ban fishing of the species during the entire four-month spawning season.

"I think our chances of getting legislation passed are really good," she said. "As a Bahamian, I'm excited to be playing a part in protecting the Nassau grouper. I hope that when I have children some day, they'll be able to swim in the ocean and see the species all of the time."

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