Increasing Diversity in Cancer Control Research

Investigator: Rena J. Pasick, DrPH
Sponsor: NIH National Cancer Institute

Location(s): United States


It is well known that a disproportionate burden of cancer is borne by defined ethnic and socioeconomic communities, and there is broad agreement that cancer disparities researchers should represent those communities. While all disciplines should reflect the diversity of the country, it would be appropriate if more intensive efforts were made in fields where researchers interact directly with underserved populations. Instead, sustained national pipeline initiatives only exist in the basic and clinical sciences. There is nothing comparable in the social, behavioral, and public health sciences. The rate of doctoral enrollments has risen from 3.8% initially to 30% (139 among 462 participants since 1999); 88% of these individuals now pursue research related to cancer. Qualitative and quantitative data demonstrate the strong influence of the MTPCCR on these outcomes. Our "short course" model succeeds because we target under-represented minorities who are capable of doctoral studies but have not yet chosen that path, and we emphasize emotional as well as cognitive training. We recognize that the growing ranks of our alumni, who reside in 29 states and will number ~700 in five years, can markedly impact cancer disparities. Our goals are to reach 40% doctoral enrollment within five years, fostering the development of diverse cadres of practice-based researchers among those who pursue the doctorate, and of research-oriented practitioners among alumni who continue as practitioners. Our specific aims are to: 1. Achieve a doctoral enrollment rate of 40% within five years, adding 157 to the current total of 139 MTPCCR alumni enrolled in or graduated with the PhD; Continue to recruit 45-50 ethnically diverse master's level participants/year; offer the five-day "short course", paid summer internships for up to 6/site, and need-based doctoral application support awards; 2. Achieve measurable increases in awareness, understanding, commitment, and action among alumni practitioners regarding community-based participatory research (CBPR) and evidence-based public health (EBPH) and demonstrate ongoing commitment to practice-based research (PBR) at the doctoral level; Adapt the summer institute curriculum to emphasize CBPR ,EBPH and PBR; develop and implement ongoing alumni engagement to maintain focus on these issues and access to related opportunities; Develop indicators of impact regarding PBR and EBPH to be measured via the MTPCCR alumni survey. This program will continue a highly successful training model that has thus far encouraged 139 under-represented health science master's students/professionals on to doctoral training with 88% pursuing research related to cancer. New goals strive for an even higher doctoral matriculation rate and building cadres both of practice-oriented researchers and evidence- based practitioners who will apply these translational principles to reduce cancer disparities.