As health disparities in general and cancer health disparities specifically affect underserved and minority populations disproportionately, the training of racially, ethnically and culturally concordant scientists and researchers may help to address these issues. Funded under the American Recovery and Reconciliation Act of 2009 (3P20CA138017-01S1) and the National Cancer Institute's rubric “Feasibility Studies for Collaborative Interaction for Minority Institution/Cancer Center Partnership,” the Lincoln University-Fox Chase Partnership in Cancer Research and Training established its summer internship program. The overall purpose of the collaborative summer internship was to create a paid, 10-week long research and training opportunity for selected undergraduate students from a Historically Black College/University to train at Fox Chase Cancer Center located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The summer internship is designed to train a cadre of Lincoln students capable of conducting first-class biomedical and population-based research and augment the number of capable researchers available to reduce the problem of cancer health disparities.

The research and training program utilized a community-based participatory research approach. Students were informed of the internship via events at Fox Chase, in class announcements, brochures and word-of-mouth. A Research Training Committee was established. The partners developed a formalized recruitment and selection process. Selected students were partnered with and co-mentored by one Lincoln faculty and one Fox Chase faculty. A comprehensive orientation and training was developed. Evaluations assessed students’ knowledge and experiences. Debriefings were also held with mentors to gain insight into their observations and experiences.

For two consecutive years, four students have been selected each year, co-mentored by Lincoln and Fox Chase faculty. A comprehensive orientation and training program was developed and administered in sections at both institutions covering a myriad of topics in cancer, cancer research, research and the sciences. Surveys were administered to the students evaluating both their knowledge and the students’ perceptions of the program itself. With the guidance and supervision of their faculty co-mentors, students developed and carried out their 10-week long research projects. Midway through their program, all of the students presented their research to-date at the partnership's External Advisory Board meeting, where they received constructive critiques of their research and presentations. At the conclusion of the 2009 internship, three students won prizes for their research posters. Since the inception of the program, two interns have been hired at Fox Chase.

The collaborative co-mentoring by faculty was instrumental in providing the students with balance and support, both scientifically and academically. We found improvement in students’ knowledge of and proficiency in conducting research in general and cancer research specifically. With the appropriate training and encouragement, students from racially, ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds can find success in pursuing careers in science and research, while working to reduce cancer health disparities.

Citation Information: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010;19(10 Suppl):B11.