INTRODUCTION Citizen scientists are an essential part of research. After a successful pilot in 2019, the Florida-California Cancer Research Education and Engagement (CaRE2) Health Equity Center held a full CaRE2 Cancer Citizen Scientist Training Program in 2020. However, COVID-19 forced a program reliant on in-lab experiences to develop a cadre of citizen scientists to drive cancer health disparity research in Black and Latinx communities, to maintain meaningful, bi-directional communication between advocates and cancer scientist in a virtual environment. The program is open to cancer survivors and advocates. METHODS The CaRE2 Cancer Citizen Scientist training program builds on the pilot, as well as collaboration techniques used by the bi-costal CaRE2 Center on a regular basis. Selection of trainees was through a competitive application process. Multiple training techniques were employed, including independent learning, lectures, in depth discussion between research stakeholders, and implementation of research advocacy. The CaRE2 Center Planning and Evaluation Core conducted the evaluation for the program to foster continuous improvement. RESULTS Three applications were received and accepted for the program. All program activities were held over a virtual conference platform. The training program focused on Research Ethics, Social Determinants of Health, Community Engagement, Biobanking, Cancer Epidemiology, and Omics. The trainees participated in a three-part curriculum: (1) Two weeks of lectures by expert mentors, supplemented with a virtual reader of learning materials in a variety of digital formats. (2) Sessions with each of the CaRE2 research project to evaluate projects’ existing community engagement efforts. (3) Implementation of an outreach project that addresses needs found in the evaluation sessions. A student ambassador from the C-ReTOOL Program funded by NCI also participated to support outreach activities as needed. A virtual symposium held on July 30, culminates the program and includes a webinar presentation of the Citizen Scientists’ advocacy project. A mean responses to a midpoint program impact evaluation on a four-point scale (Strongly Disagree 1, Strongly Agree=4), about the self-learning materials (3.67), expert mentors (3.33), the advocacy project (3.33), and the program structure (3.33) show that overall participants agree that the program has a positive impact. CONCLUSION Continuing this work in a rapidly changing landscape is a credit to the collaborative infrastructure and resources of NCI CPACHE programs, such as the CaRE2 Health Equity Center for the training of Citizen Scientists. This model has successfully continued access to outstanding cancer scientists and advocates, who are well experienced in developing research education programs as well as mentoring minority trainees. The development of these virtual tools sustains crucial work in the current environment, and open doors for enrichment to the in person model for future, bi-costal cohorts.
Citation Format: Nissa Askins, Fern J. Webb, Linda Behar-Horenstein, Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Sandra Suther, Diana J. Wilkie, Folakemi T. Odedina. Florida-California CaRE2 Health Equity Center Citizen Scientist Training Program: Going virtual in response to COVID-19 [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Virtual Conference: Thirteenth AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; 2020 Oct 2-4. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2020;29(12 Suppl):Abstract nr PO-040.