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Developing our biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce is a critical national need. Significant workforce shortages exist or are emerging in the fields of medicine, dentistry, public health, nutrition/dietetics, and mental health. Exacerbating this problem is the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in health research and the health professions, as well as underrepresentation of women in the highest echelons of health research. Because a diverse biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce would be significantly better equipped to serve the nation’s health needs, it is imperative for all students to learn about the exciting careers in the field of health sciences. Adolescence offers a key window to promote interest in and increase self-efficacy to pursue health research careers and the health professions, to address the gender gap in the health sciences, and to introduce underrepresented minorities to opportunities in health and science research.

The Health Quest Project aims to promote middle school students’ interests in health science careers by:

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  • Allowing students to learn about the career paths of health professionals through interactive video interviews. Specifically, students will learn firsthand how professionals in biomedical, behavioral and clinical research fields became interested in their career fields and how they prepared for them while also getting to explore some of the day-to-day activities of these scientists.
  • Engaging students in a rich narrative driven health sciences adventure game where students can choose which science field to explore and then embark on a mission to help solve a scientific problem or answer a critical research question.
  • Providing classroom teachers with the tools and resources they need to implement Health Quest in their classrooms.  

The Health Quest project has three primary components: (1) the Health Quest Career Adventure Game, an intelligent game-based learning environment that leverages intelligent tutoring systems and intelligent narrative technologies together with commercial game technologies to create personalized health career adventures; (2) the Health Quest Student Discovery Center website, which provides the primary access point to the game and features interactive video interviews with health professionals about their biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research careers and provide social media linkages; and (3) the Health Quest Teacher Resource Center website, which will support middle school teachers’ classroom implementations of Health Quest in their science classes with online professional development materials and in-class support activities. These components are being actively developed by the project team and will be launched in the near future. 

Support for the project has been provided by the National Institutes of Health (R25OD021880-01A1), Health Quest: Engaging Adolescents in Health Careers with Technology-Rich Personalized Learning. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institutes of Health.

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