The United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), has awarded a $2 million, three-year grant to Harris-Stowe State University to create a bioinformatics program for undergraduate students at the historically Black university located in St. Louis. Bioinformatics is an emerging field that combines science, physics, math and biology to aid in the diagnosis, treatment and discovery of new therapeutic advancements. An example of bioinformatics is the use of computer analysis on the Human Genome Project, which has recorded the 3 billion basic pairs of the human DNA system.
HSSU will develop a new undergraduate program to train students for careers as bioinformatics professionals. HSSU will use the support to:
- Develop new curricula combining coursework and experiential learning opportunities.
- Expose high school students in surrounding school districts to the field of bioinformatics through a summer bioinformatics “boot camp” program.
- Offer academic scholarships for up to 25 students each year.
“In the past decade, Harris-Stowe State University has emerged as a leader in training students for high-tech careers. This new program will help us to build on that important work, as well as continue to fulfill our mission of serving historically underrepresented students,” said Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith, interim president of HSSU. “Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing field of study, and it is vital for all people to play a role in its advancement.”
Studies have shown that there is a substantial gap in the number of diverse college students trained in biomedical sciences. Black, Hispanic and Native American people account for only 7.1% of the employed biological/biomedical and life sciences workforce, according to the National Science Foundation. A diverse health workforce helps provide personalized, culturally competent care to an increasingly diverse population.
“The United Health Foundation is honored to collaborate with Harris-Stowe State University to increase the diversity of the life sciences workforce. We are excited about HSSU training students who will make discoveries, develop therapies and advance health care for all,” said Patrick Quinn, CEO of UnitedHealthcare in Missouri, a UnitedHealth Group company. “This partnership illustrates UnitedHealth Group’s commitment to health equity and to building a diverse health workforce reflective of our society.”
The commitment in Missouri is one of many ways UnitedHealth Group is working to advance health equity by diversifying the health workforce of the future. The United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative, for example, partners with nine nonprofit and civic organizations and has provided over 3,000 scholarships to diverse students studying medicine and public health across the U.S. since 2007. Optum Technology, part of Optum which is a UnitedHealth Group company, offers a mentor-led STEM program that has provided science, technology, engineering and mathematics training to over 7,000 diverse and underrepresented students at 103 middle and high schools since 2019. To learn more about the company’s commitment to health equity as well as its efforts to build healthier communities, improve outcomes and create a modern, high-performing health care system, please visit the company’s sustainability website.
About Harris-Stowe State University
For over 160 years, Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU) has served the historically underrepresented. As a Historically Black College and University, HSSU is strongly committed to providing a high-quality higher education experience that is both affordable and accessible to the diverse populations within and beyond the metropolitan St. Louis region. More than 90% of student population are racially and ethnically diverse and receive some form of financial aid.
About the United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, the United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. The United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, the United Health Foundation has committed more than $500 million to programs and communities around the world. To learn more, visit UnitedHealthFoundation.org.