Reflections on Impact of Pipeline Programs

Monet Jones, MPH, MSW, LSW, a Research Specialist with the Illinois Cancer Health Equity Research (I-CHER) Center at the University of Illinois Cancer Center, spoke to the 2023 cohort of Cancer Center summer students to share the profound impact pipeline programs can have on their lives like they did on her academic and early-career journey.

Why Pipeline Programs?

Summer programs are a critical part of the Cancer Center’s mission to build pipeline programs to train diverse cancer researchers from young students to early-stage investigators. The goal is to educate, support and retain trainees from underrepresented groups to address the needs of the Cancer Center’s diverse patient population.

Currently, Jones is working alongside Cancer Center member and UI Health gastroenterologist, Keith Naylor, MD, on a research project, “Optimizing Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment from Family History to Promote Targeted Screening in an Urban Underserved Patient Population,” funded by the American Cancer Society.

The Journey

Jones’ fascination with health sciences blossomed early during her involvement in the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Early Outreach Saturday College Program, where she participated from grades 4 through 12. As an undergraduate student, Jones then earned the opportunity to be selected as a summer research fellow in three Summer Research Opportunity Programs at UIC, two of which were hosted at the Cancer Center. Those experiences fortified her passion for cancer research and health equity.

Her quest for knowledge continued through graduate studies at UIC, where she pursued a dual master’s degree in Public Health and Social Work. During this time, Jones remained committed to advancing cancer health equity by contributing as a graduate research assistant to the Cancer Center’s Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) project.

ChicagoCHEC is a comprehensive partnership to advance cancer health equity that brings together UIC, a federally designated Minority-Serving, Hispanic-Serving, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, and NEIU, a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, with the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. In the NCI-funded partnership, the institutions work collaboratively to increase the number of students and investigators from underrepresented populations engaged in cancer health disparities research.

Jones’ journey is testament to the power of pipeline programs to help shape the future of healthcare and foster health equity.

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