We believe it is critical that we increase the number of underrepresented high school and college students who pursue cancer research as a potential career field. By increasing the number of underrepresented minorities interested in oncology research, we hope to impact how disparities in cancer are understood.
The UI Cancer Center is partnering with Governors State University on a $1.5 million National Cancer Institute initiative, the GUIDE Project, which will prepare college students and junior faculty for careers in cancer disparities research by equipping them with the skills and abilities to respond to the rapidly-changing landscape of health inequities in Chicago’s south side and growing south suburban and rural communities.
Located 35 miles south of Chicago, Governors State University is situated at the intersection of city neighborhoods, suburban villages, and rural towns. It is also less than a 30-minute drive from rural communities like Kankakee and Joliet, as well as northwestern Indiana.
The highest rates of cancer in the Chicago area has shifted from the city to its suburbs. But many suburbs do not possess the infrastructure of robust academic and research cancer centers, or the specialized expertise among their faculty, to address the growing disparities that exist within their local communities. That’s why we’ve built partnerships with Governors State University and other institutions.
“Partnering with the UI Cancer Center will increase the capacity of GSU to serve as a center of health disparities research in a community that is disproportionately affected by cancer,” said Dr. Rupert Evans, chair and program director of health administration at Governors State and co-principal investigator on the grant. “It will also build our faculty’s ability to pursue larger federal grants for projects that will address high cancer rates and mortality in the Southland community.”
Through the researcHStart program, a partnership with the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, we introduce students to cancer research to promote career opportunities in the field and help students gain knowledge in biophysics, biochemistry, immunology, and pharmacology.
As of March 2017, 38 high school students had participated in researcHStart. Of the 22 students who participated in 2016:
- 95% reported feeling more confident in their ability
- 95% said the experience increased their interest in cancer research careers
- 100% said they were more knowledgeable about how to pursue such careers
The majority of recent researcHStart participants intend to pursue majors in biology-related fields such as pre-medicine, biomedical engineering, biochemistry, and health sciences. Others are already working toward degrees in science and technology at the nation’s top colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The ChicagoCHEC (Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative) Research Fellows program is a comprehensive summer learning experience for undergraduate and post baccalaureate students from Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, the City Colleges of Chicago, and other community colleges in the Chicago metropolitan area who are planning to apply to graduate or medical school.
This program focuses on the development of academic, technical, and professional skills in preparation for careers in social, behavioral, and biomedical research, as well as healthcare. ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows will spend the summer in seminars and research rotations learning from leading researchers. Following the intensive summer program, ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows may have an opportunity to volunteer or work with a research mentor on a research project (depending on mentor and project availability) during the academic year.