Over the past nine years, the Hillman Cancer Center (HCC) at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has trained and mentored 134 high school students from underrepresented minority (URM) groups and economically disadvantaged (DA) backgrounds hailing from over 60 high schools. Our newly proposed Hillman Academy will expand the successes of our current program, which is funded under the expiring Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences to the HCC and was recognized in 2014 with the Carnegie Science Center Leadership in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education Award. Our past participants performed research over a wide range of cancer topics at six research sites across the campus under the tutelage of 106 faculty members who supported our students as hosts and mentors. Our alumni have won numerous scholarships and awards, coauthored manuscripts, presented at national scientific conferences, and continued research both with us and at the top institutions that they now attend. Ninety-three percent of our alumni with known and declared undergraduate majors matriculated into science- and healthcare-related areas of study.
We aim to continue these successes with an expanded program to reach even more URM/DA students?24 per year?to increase the diversity and preparedness of the cancer workforce through a multi-modal approach that includes immersive research experiences, didactic training with tailored curricula, and professional and academic development. We will also lead a number of outreach activities in our region to raise awareness of cancer, cancer disparities, and cancer research through our collaborations with long-standing community partners, such as the Fund for the Advancement of Minorities through Education, MPowerhouse, Inc., and the Homeless Children?s Education Fund. These efforts will grow out of the Hillman Academy to engage URM/DA students at earlier stages, as well as, their schools and other community members. Together, the Hillman Academy will engage, train, and provide paths for URM/DA youth to advance cancer research and care. Our leadership, infrastructure, mentors, and experience of running a holistic research training program position us for lasting success in this endeavor. We will build on our previous accomplishments of promoting the pursuit of STEM education and careers for our students and continue to address cancer disparities by equipping URM/DA youth to be agents of change that impact their communities.
The Hillman Academy at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will train 24 underrepresented minority and disadvantaged youth per year from Pittsburgh and surrounding areas by providing authentic cancer research experiences, didactic training from a tailored curriculum, and professional and academic development to prepare them for careers in cancer research and care. The Academy will also impact our local communities through outreach events facilitated by our long-standing community partners. The Hillman Academy will build from the strengths of our institution and past successes in working with emerging scientists from underserved backgrounds to broaden participation and expand diversity in the cancer workforce, which will produce more effective research and help decrease health disparities in cancer.