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Cancer Prevention Education: Student Research Experiences

Shine Chang

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Since its inception in 1992, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Cancer Prevention Education: Student Research Experiences (the Program, has had as its objective to provide short-term research experiences in cancer prevention research and education to students as a means to recruit them to careers in cancer prevention research. We have developed curriculum- based methods that provide new knowledge and opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students from the basic biomedical sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, genetics, behavioral and social sciences, nursing, medicine, and related public health disciplines to conduct mentored research. Beginning with 10 positions in 1992 and increasing over time, the Program now support 25 positions annually. To date, all positions have been filled annually. The Advisory Committee reviews and selects the students based on the merit of their academic performance, educational objectives, and research interests. Students receive a stipend with limited funds available for tuition for required courses, Topics in Cancer Prevention I & II and Bio-behavioral Research Methods in Cancer Prevention and Addiction. Students deliver oral reports on their research experience at our Cancer Prevention Trainee Brown Bag seminars. The Specific Aims are to provide 25 high-performing students with 10-15-week experiences in cancer prevention annually; to cultivate faculty mentors and to recognize model mentors; to conduct innovative and effective recruitment and application processes, with particular attention to attracting a demographically diverse population; to engage the Advisory Committee in the continuous program improvement; to provide up-to-date and highly relevant multi-disciplinary curriculum in cancer prevention and cancer prevention careers; and to rigorously evaluate the Program and follow long-term career development of trainees. Several innovations are proposed: 1) launch of a personalized career exploration and development series, "Prevention Parachute;" 2) a major overhaul of the Cancer Prevention Educational Curriculum by renovating the "Topics in Cancer Prevention" series; 3) using live web conferencing with cancer prevention scientists and sister R25E programs elsewhere for enhancing engagement in new directions in cancer prevention; and 4) addition of a seminar series that showcases individuals in specific careers and their paths within the field as real-life examples for students. Overall, the Program's success takes many forms, from recruitment of a highly diverse student population, to students' development of master's theses and doctoral dissertations based on their research, to regularly taught graduate-level courses in cancer prevention, as well as the growing number of alumni who have completed training and currently hold academic positions in cancer prevention research.

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