As a recognized leader in cancer research,1 MD Anderson Cancer Center is well poised to address a significant lack of diversity in the cancer research workforce that contributes to considerable disparities.2-6 We will do so via early intervention programs that foster sustained interest in cancer research in students underrepresented and minority in Science (URMS). Since 2011, we have directed a summer undergraduate training program encompassing 345 trainees (from 2011-2018), including 120 URMS. Significantly, outcomes for URMS and non-minority trainees in our program are indistinguishable; URMS and non-minority alumni are enrolled in or have completed STEM bachelor?s (98.8% vs 98.1%) and doctoral (both 67.1%) degrees and are retained in STEM education or workforce (98.3% vs 98.6%, respectively). Built upon these successes, we have designed a comprehensive cancer research training program for high school and undergraduate URMS via the R25 YES initiative. In our URMS-focused program, we address major barriers in URMS pursuit and success in STEM, including: limited 1) research experience, 2) career path knowledge, and 3) scientific identity formation and exposure to science; 4) underdeveloped professionalism and communication skills; 5) inadequate research, educational, and career mentoring; and 6) barriers in the graduate application process. Our proposed UPWARDS Training Program (Underrepresented Minorities Working Towards Research Diversity in Science) has 3 tracks: full-time, 12-week summer research for 1) high-schoolers and 2) undergraduates and 3) part-time, 40-week research for undergraduates. Within each track, we propose the following aims to address the aforementioned barriers:
Aim 1) Employ focused URMS recruitment and holistic strategies for program inclusion, and deliver didactic learning and hands-on cancer research experiences through a cadre of outstanding mentoring faculty.
Aim 2) Develop and deliver individualized mentoring, career exploration, and professional development that stimulates graduate education and cancer research career pursuit.
Aim 3) Educate and inspire URMS communities, young generations in the STEM pipeline, and the families and support systems of our students through training, STEM outreach, and hands-on engagement. We will encourage our trainees to lead and encourage their communities and younger generations through hands-on STEM outreach activities and design and delivery of community education.
Aim 4) Implement and maintain a rigorous assessment program with continual appraisal and enactment of novel, evidence-driven best practices derived from these efforts. Lastly, we commit to disseminating our findings and best practices via peer-reviewed publications. Through the UPWARDS Program, we will build upon our prior experiences and best practices to launch a cancer research training program specifically designed to fit the needs of URMS trainees in our local community and nationally. We anticipate our efforts will effectively increase diversity in the STEM educational pipeline and cancer research workforce.

Public Health Relevance

UPWARDS Training Program Public Health Relevance Statement/Project Narrative As a recognized leader in cancer research, MD Anderson Cancer Center is well poised to address the critical lack of diversity plaguing the cancer research workforce and educational pipeline via early intervention programs that foster sustained interest in cancer research for young scientists. Our comprehensive UPWARDS Training Program (Underrepresented Minorities Working Towards Research Diversity in Science) addresses major barriers deterring and preventing many minority students from pursuing and succeeding in graduate programs and in cancer research careers. The UPWARDS Training Program will cultivate high school and undergraduate minority scientists with the goal of increasing diversity in biomedical graduate programs and in the cancer research workforce through 1) minority-focused recruitment, 2) hands-on cancer research experiences, 3) a strong mentoring and career/professional development, 4) education and engagement of minority communities and younger generations in the STEM pipeline through outreach and community education activities, and 5) a rigorous assessment plan with dissemination of best practices.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Education Projects (R25)
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Subcommittee I - Transistion to Independence (NCI)
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Lin, Alison J
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University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
United States
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