Puerto Rico continues to experience intense health and mental health disparities, which are significantly worsened by frequent natural disasters. A migration pattern of experienced scholars relocating to the United States, has exacerbated these challenges as now the scientific expertise in the island tends to rely on scholars who are exposed to multiple challenges to implement applied programs of research.
In an effort to offer a contribution to the needs of Puerto Rican scholars and applied researchers, a collaboration among the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, the UT Austin Latino Research Institute, and the George Washington University’s Gill-Levobic Center for Community Health in the Caribbean and Latin America, has been established to support the needs of Puerto Rican scholars and applied researchers. This initiative, known as Cortando la Brecha, seeks to enhance capacity of early and mid-career Puerto Rican scholars in behavioral, social, and health sciences. As an initial step, this initiative consisted of three webinars focused on understanding the academic needs of the Puerto Rican scholars. The highest priority need identified in these conversations was the need for protected time to write for publications and grants, as well as technical assistance to support the pursuit of these objectives.
As a result, a writing retreat was offered in early fall 2023, which brought together senior researchers from UT and George Washington University. These scholars facilitated for an extended weekend, writing and scientific coaching sessions for Puerto Rican scholars. The retreat was highly successful and participants reported high satisfaction with the initiative. To continue this collaboration, Parra-Cardona will offer a 4-month grant writing seminar in Spring 2024 to Puerto Rican scholars. This training will focus on assisting scholars to ground grant proposals according to the contextual and cultural needs of Puerto Rico.