1. MCH Workforce Development
  2. Funded Projects

Funded Projects

Maternal and Child Health Scholars, Training, and Enrichment Program (MCH-STEP)

Grant Status: Active

Training Category: LEAP

Project Director(s):

Essie Torres, PhD, MPH
East Carolina University
2309 Carol Belk Bldg., Mail Stop 529
Greenville, NC  27858-4353
Phone: 252-328-1818


North Carolina has the 13th highest infant mortality rate, the 15th highest preterm birth rate, and the 11th highest low birthweight rate in the nation. Eastern North Carolina (ENC) is a largely rural, poor, and underserved region of the state with the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality and the fewest number of health professionals which negatively impacts access to care and disproportionally affects rural, minority, and socioeconomically disadvantaged women, children, and families. With 50% first generation college students and 30% minority enrollment, East Carolina University (ECU) is the 3rd largest public university in NC, with a mission of regional transformation. Given the critical health needs of MCH populations in ENC and ECU's location, mission, and student composition, ECU is perfectly positioned to engage in the training and diversification of the future maternal and child health (MCH) workforce.

Goals and Objectives:

The purpose of MCH-STEP is to inspire the interest of rural underrepresented racial/ethnic diverse undergraduate students in MCH-related public health, help them explore and envision MCH-related career paths, and serve as a training program to enhance the diversity of next generation of MCH-related health professionals. This will be met by four main goals and accompanying objectives:

Goal 1: Recruit and support rural undergraduate students from economically disadvantaged and racial/ethnic diverse backgrounds into a rigorous training program (MCH-STEP) that prepares them for a successful trajectory into the MCH field.

  • Obj. 1.1: Develop and implement multimodal recruitment strategies for first- and second-year undergraduate students at East Carolina University.
  • Obj. 1.2: Enroll and support 12 scholars in four cohorts through MCH-STEP across the 5-year grant period (a total of 48 participating scholars).

Goal 2: Train MCH-STEP scholars in core MCH leadership competencies using a blended didactic training approach which integrates traditional methods with innovative learning experiences.

  • Obj. 2.1: Provide an innovative and interdisciplinary training program (2- year training program per cohort) that offers MCH competencies via a 12-credit hour MCH undergraduate certificate.
  • Obj. 2.2: Provide mentored research internships and practicums to MCH-STEP scholars.
  • Obj. 2.3: Provide MCH-STEP scholars with learning experiences in the areas of MCH research methods, health disparities and equity, structural racism, life course and social determinants of health, health literacy, social justice, and telehealth via coursework and monthly seminars.

Goal 3: Prepare MCH-STEP scholars for MCH practice and/or graduate programs via mentoring support, career development, and graduate school readiness workshops.

  • Obj. 3.1: Deliver a 4-week virtual Professional Development Academy in the summer that consists of professional development (e.g., career preparation, resume and coverletter assistance, interview preparation, public speaking/ presentation skills) and career exploration experiences.
  • Obj. 3.2: Provide graduate school preparation workshops (e.g., entrance exam preparation, written statement, recommendation letters, and financial aid and scholarships) to demystify the process, guide MCH-STEP scholars during their graduate school planning process, and ensure successful applications for MCH-related advance training programs.
  • Obj. 3.3: Provide supportive services and resources (i.e. stipends and educational related expenses) needed MCH-STEP scholars to successfully transition from undergraduate studies to public health graduate/professional schools or MCH-related health professions.

Goal 4: Increase collaborations and outreach with other MCH long-term training programs, HRSA and Title V stakeholders, and MCH-related community organizations that can strengthen our ability to support, train, and mentor MCH-STEP scholars.

  • Obj. 4.1 Strengthen the alliance between MCH-STEP and ECU's Division of Research, Economic Development, and Engagement's Undergraduate Research Office, MCH-related student organizations, and MCH- focused faculty and programs at ECU.
  • Obj. 4.2: Develop collaborative partnerships with local MCH-related service community organizations (e.g., Health Departments, WIC program), AMCHP, ATMCH, and the UNC Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Evaluation, Science, and Practice.
  • Obj. 4.3: Disseminate MCH-STEP training curricula and evaluation findings to advance MCH training and practice including participation in regional and national conferences, publication of findings, and participation in the MCH LEAP Training Program Grantee meeting.


This program will enroll and support 12 scholars in four cohorts through MCH-STEP across the 5-year grant period (a total of 48 participating scholars). MCH-STEP consists of four core components: 1) MCH curricula (including a 12-credit hour MCH certificate of coursework and monthly seminars), 2) faculty/MCH professional mentored internship or field practicum (as part of MCH Certificate completion), 3) career development (via a 4-week virtual professional development Academy), and 4) graduate school readiness.


This training program is housed within the College of Health and Human Performance (HHP) at ECU and is interdisciplinary, including successful collaborative relationships with the Departments of Health Education and Promotion, Human Development and Family Science, and the School of Social Work. ECU, HHP, and associated departments have the necessary infrastructure and resources to successfully implement and sustain the proposed MCH-STEP training program. Our skilled faculty mentors and MCH-related community partners will teach, coach, and mentor MCH-STEP scholars via the coursework for the MCH certificate, research internships or practicums, virtual professional development academy, and graduate school readiness. Additionally, our MCH training partnerships with AMCHP, ATMCH, and UNC's MCH Center of Excellence will provide career development skills, and information and technical assistance for advance MCH-related training opportunities. Our carefully selected community advisory board will assist with screening, interviewing, and selection our MCH-STEP scholars, and annual reviews of progress towards program goals and objectives.


MCH-STEP will be evaluated annually employing a mixed methods design (qualitative and quantitative strategies) that includes process and impact assessments that align with the overall goals of this project: (1) increase diversity in MCH workforce; and (2) reduce health disparities for vulnerable populations. Process assessments include satisfaction surveys, course evaluations, monthly check-ins, program tracking sheets, and student evaluations. Impact assessments will include exit surveys and alumni surveys. Program productivity output will be recorded to track performance indicators. Additional performance indicators specific to this project will include tracking student intentions to pursue a MCH-related field in higher education or as a career.

Date Last Reviewed: