Physicians Hall Front

Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center Announces New Training Program to Boost Diversity in Cancer Research

Milwaukee, Feb. 27, 2023 – The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Cancer Center today announced a new 2-year training program to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in cancer research. In partnership with Alverno College, Mount Mary University, UW-Milwaukee, and other Wisconsin universities, the program aims to develop a diverse cancer research workforce – one with the potential to impact cancer disparities in eastern Wisconsin.

“This initiative will advance the next generation of diverse cancer researchers who will drive innovation, fuel cancer discoveries and, over time, make a positive impact on mitigating health disparities,” said Marja Nevalainen, MD, PhD, Wisconsin Breast Cancer Showhouse Endowed Professor of Prostate Cancer Research at MCW and the program’s principal investigator.

Funded by the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Center for Diversity in Cancer Research Training, the MCW Cancer Center was one of eight institutions selected to offer the post-baccalaureate program which provides underrepresented students in science with an immersive experience that includes hands-on training in cancer research labs, access to research mentors, participation in community outreach efforts, and career development workshops. Student research via MCW’s program will focus on the molecular mechanisms of cancer and cancer health disparities, building on nearly 10 years of cancer disparities research at the MCW Cancer Center.

“We’re incredibly excited about this program,” said Gustavo Leone, PhD, director of the MCW Cancer Center and the Dr. Glenn R. and Nancy A. Linnerson Endowed Chair for Cancer Research. “With the support of the American Cancer Society, we will increase diversity at all levels of cancer research to better understand and address the most pressing health challenges in our region.”

The new training program complements the MCW Cancer Center’s existing robust educational and pipeline programs that support a diverse population of learners and span the educational spectrum from middle and high school to college and medical school through postdoctoral training, career development, and continuing medical education. This includes a long-standing pilot program funded by ACS Institutional Research Grants and led by Dr. Nevalainen that enables junior faculty, including those underrepresented in science, to conduct cancer research and successfully compete for national research funding.

“A critical element for promoting diversity in cancer research is recruiting, retaining, and training promising students who represent the communities they will serve. Building diverse teams leads to greater innovation that stimulates discovery and can make a positive impact on mitigating health disparities in our community,” said Michele Battle, PhD, MCW associate professor of cell biology, neurobiology, and anatomy, who will lead recruiting and training for the new program.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin ranks above the national average for cancer incidence and mortality rates. In addition, Wisconsinites experience persisting cancer disparities in geographic areas and among racial and ethnic minority populations.

Applications will open in March 2023 with the first cohort of students expected to begin in August 2023.

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