The Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, or MCAH, program at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health was awarded a federal grant to guide undergraduates into the maternal and child health profession.
The Maternal and Child Health Leadership, Education, and Advancement in Undergraduate Pathways, or LEAP, Training Program grant is a competitive five-year grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA.
The grant’s purpose is to serve underrepresented students in the Maternal and Child Health, or MCH, profession, according to HRSA’s website. The grant awarded a total of $773,786 to UC Berkeley.
Julianna Deardorff, the MCAH program head, said UC Berkeley was one of six programs to be selected nationwide. Previous awardees include UCLA School of Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of South Florida, according to HRSA’s website.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Deardorff said. “It’s something that I’ve been dreaming about for the last five years, and UC Berkeley is perfectly positioned to have a very vibrant and transformative program.”
Cassondra Marshall, assistant director of the new LEAP program, said she hopes the grant will help underrepresented students and diversify the national MCH workforce.
According to a survey conducted by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, African Americans, Latinx, Asian Americans and Native American/Pacific Islanders account for 15%, 8%, 3% and 1%, respectively, of the national MCH workforce.
“People would work in communities where the community members have people serving them that look more like themselves and represent them culturally and people who come from their communities,” Deardorff said.
Deardorff explained that the bulk of the funds would go toward undergraduate public health majors. The grant would fund stipends for summer internships in maternal, child and adolescent health areas, and provide research opportunities with faculty members.
The grant would also fund two peer ambassadors to work in the undergraduate advising office and introduce students to MCH career opportunities, Deardorff added.
LEAP scholars would also receive help in applying to graduate schools in fields such as public health, medicine, social welfare and nursing.
For prospective undergraduate students, MCAH will send out applications to public health majors over the summer, according to Deardorff. Accepted students will enter into the LEAP program in the fall.
“What I really like about this is that UC Berkeley is a really big campus, but this program makes the campus really small for the students entering into it,” Deardorff said. “It gives them hands-on experiences with faculty and graduate students and mentorship to apply to graduate schools.”