U. of C. Medicine accepting applications for cancer research training program

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

The University of Chicago Medicine is accepting applications for its newly expanded Cancer research training program, Chicago EYES (Educators and Youth Enjoy Science) on Cancer. U. of C. Medicine this summer will work with Chicago Public Schools teachers and underserved high school and college students that are interested in careers in biomedicine.

Chicago EYES on Cancer builds upon a past program known as the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experience (CURE) program. The CURE program did not include teacher training.

For eight weeks, beginning in early June 2018 educators, high school, and college students will be paid and work full time in U. of C. Medicine’s cancer research center’s laboratories, participate in cancer-based lecture series and skill-building workshops, and work alongside faculty and peer mentors.

While students learn career development through the program teachers in the program will be working on curriculum development to bring what they learn through training to their classrooms.

“The goal is to take students who have an interest in careers in science, technology, engineering, and medicine and expose them to a broad range of opportunities in the field of cancer,” said Megan Mekinda, assistant director for Cancer Education at the University of Chicago Medicine, Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The focus of the program to is to have youth in the program who are underrepresented in the field of science. Communities that are hit hardest by cancer are underrepresented communities, Mekinda said, adding “it’s important that we have students who come from those places and know those places the best.”

Teachers are also a vital piece of the new research training program.

“The incidence of mortality for cancer is much higher for black males in Cook County than in the rest of the U.S., and the same is true for black females and mortality,” said Kathleen Goss, director for strategic partnerships at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Some factors that increase risks of cancer include smoking, obesity and decreased screening rates for diseases like colon cancer. Goss said these risk factors are pronounced in south side communities in Chicago.

Programs like Chicago EYES on Cancer, Goss said, “increase the diversity in the research pipeline and workforce that is tackling some of these problems. “Those are individuals (enrolled in the program) that better understand the problems that these communities face. The next generation of cancer researchers [will be] more knowledgeable and have better ideas of how to tackle cancer disparities.”

Students that are eligible for the program include minorities, economically disadvantaged, first-generation college students or living with a disability, high school sophomore, junior or senior, or college freshman or sophomore.

The program is over a two-year period. U. of C. plans to enroll 10-12 new students this year.

“A focus of the new Chicago EYES on Cancer program is strengthening our relationship with south side high schools in an effort to recruit more south side students and teachers, and also to generate more opportunities for community outreach related to cancer,” Mekinda said in an email to the Herald. “Our target schools so far include Kenwood, University of Chicago Charter Schools, South Shore International, Brooks, Simeon, Goode, and Hancock.”

Alums of the program have gone on to work toward careers in biomedicine.

Some are currently pursuing four-year degrees at University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Boston University, Amherst College and more. Alums have declared majors in Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, Pharmacy, and Pre-Medicine.

Chicago EYES on Cancer is funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, and programming is provided in part through a partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive. The program will work with MSI to develop cancer-related content and curriculum for their afterschool programs which service elementary and high school students.

With the grant, the U. of C. was able to expand its reach to high school teachers. Dr. Eileen Dolan, Professor of Medicine and the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Associate Director for Education, is the principal investigator of the funded grant that is supporting Chicago EYES on Cancer.

The deadline for the program is midnight on Jan. 21. For more information or to access the application visit https://cancer.uchicago.edu/education/pipeline-programs/eyes/ .

t.hill@hpherald.com