The population of older adults in the United States is the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse
the nation has ever known, and these trends are expected to continue or accelerate. To meet the increased
healthcare needs of a diverse older adult population, it is important that the healthcare workforce represent the
diversity of this population. A diverse healthcare workforce is important to expand healthcare access for
underserved populations and to enrich the pool of leaders and policymakers with unique insights into and
familiarity with the diverse healthcare needs of our aging population. This is especially true for clinical
research, since researchers often rely on personal experience as they formulate and seek to answer research
questions. Thus, broader representation of underrepresented minority leaders in the clinical research
workforce can help ensure that research priorities appropriately address the needs of older minority groups.
Despite the recognized need for a diverse clinical research workforce, students from underrepresented
groups face significant barriers to pursuing training in clinical research for older adults. Students from
underrepresented groups encounter financial, informational and cultural challenges that limit their interest and
participation in medicine overall. Moreover, students from underrepresented groups may be less likely to
pursue training in clinical research for older adults if they do not perceive such research as relevant to their
The University of Chicago (UC) is a leader in training future clinical researchers from underrepresented
backgrounds, with a specific focus on aging through several NIA research training programs designed for
students at different training levels. These training programs expose students to formal didactic curricula in
aging and clinical research, multi-tiered mentorship teams that conduct clinical research in aging, and realistic
career experiences in clinical research and aging. Our NIGMS-funded pipeline program for underrepresented
Chicago public high school students has successfully increased the interest and intent in pursuing a career
clinical research. Our NIA programs for medical students have successfully improved interest in aging research
careers and research productivity of those trainees (i.e., publications and awards).
Building on the success of our programs for diverse high school and medical students, we will leverage our
experience training learners in aging research to build the Cultivating Health & Aging Researchers by
Integrating Science, Medicine & Aging (CHARISMA) program, a structured longitudinal multi-tiered
mentored aging-related research training program for undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds.
The objectives of CHARISMA are 1) to prepare undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds for
medicine, science, engineering, technology and mathematics (MSTEM) careers in aging-related clinical
research, and 2) to increase and sustain learner satisfaction, aging-related research knowledge, attitudes
toward aging-related clinical research careers, and behaviors associated with pursuing an aging-related
research career in an MSTEM field among underrepresented undergraduates.