Introduction With the limited progress in eliminating cancer disparities, it is important to develop a diverse oncology workforce who will effectively address cancer disparities. Implemented in 2012, the Research Training Opportunities for Outstanding Leaders (ReTOOL) Program focuses on increasing the number of underrepresented minority (URM) cancer scientists in Florida. URM undergraduate students from the state of Florida are invited to participate in a 16-week, hands-on research experience at the University of Florida (UF). Students are assigned to a UF mentor who facilitates their research training and aid their professional development through multiple scholarly activities (http://retool.cop.ufl.edu/). This project focuses on the program evaluation of the ReTOOL program. Methodology ReTOOL alumni are tracked for 10 years to provide evaluation and their career status through biannual surveys. The survey asks about their experience in participating in the program; skills gained during the program; how their participation has benefited their professional development; and their opinions about the program. Alumni respond to open-ended, Likert scale, and multiple choice questions. All open-ended questions in the 2015, 2016, and 2018 surveys were employed for this study. Data analysis comprised the use of themes to categorize the responses. Sub-theming was also used to address specifics within responses; for example, “networking” was divided into “networking among peers” and “networking among UF faculty.” Results Open-ended responses by ReTOOL alumni provided unique perspective on what makes undergraduate research training programs impactful for minority trainees. The ReTOOL alumni noted that strong partnerships with their UF mentor and lab made the program effective. Some attributes of an effective mentor included encouragement, frequent communication, and the ability to shadow in clinical settings. Trainees noted that the information presented about grant and proposal writing would provide future benefits. Understanding scientific research (e.g. ethical practices, documentation, and replication) was a gap filled through participation. Trainees noted that the resources available at UF were excellent and included state-of-the-art technology compared to technology at their home institutions. Improvement opportunities noted included communication with mentors, stipend disbursement timeline, and accommodation. Overall, alumni noted that participating in research informed their graduate school decisions and recommend participating in the program. Conclusion The responses from ReTOOL alumni aided in continuous improvement of the program and effective transplantation of the ReTOOL program at Florida A&M University. Although tracking alumni over the years could be challenging, it is worth it for effective planning of future research training programs. ReTOOL alumni achievements include doctoral degrees (PhDs and MD), publications, presentations and awards.
Citation Format: Parisa Fathi, Folakemi Odedina, Bereket Mochona, Renee Reams, Jennifer Nguyen, Nissa Askins, Ernest Kaninjing, Linda Behar-Horenstein, Debra Lyon, Merr Jennifer Markham, Adaora Ezeani. Tracking of undergraduate research trainees for continuous improvement of the ReTOOL program [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Twelfth AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; 2019 Sep 20-23; San Francisco, CA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2020;29(6 Suppl_2):Abstract nr D035.