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Keywords

cancer prevention; cancer disparities; minority researchers; training; curriculum

Abstract

Background: For minority populations, there is a continuing disparity in the burden of death and illness from cancer. Research to address this disparity should be conducted by investigators who can best understand and address the needs of culturally diverse communities. However, minorities are under-represented in health-related research. The goal of this project was to develop and evaluate an approach to motivating and preparing master’s degree students for careers dedicated to cancer disparities research.

Method: A Cancer Disparities Research Training Program (CDRTP) was initiated in 2010. The program consists of coursework, practicum experiences, and research opportunities. Assessment of the curriculum is based on monitoring achievement of evaluation indicators and includes a quantitative assessment and qualitative approach.

Results: In its first three years, the program graduated 20 trainees, all of whom were minorities (18 African Americans and two Asians). When asked about career goals, two-thirds of the trainees indicated interest in pursuing careers in research on cancer prevention and control. The trainees expressed high satisfaction with the courses, instructor, materials, and curriculum. Although trainees had suggestions about course details, evaluations overall were positive. Across focus groups, three recurrent themes emerged regarding activities to enhance the student experience: having a wider variety of topics, more guest speakers, and field trips.

Conclusion: The CDRTP was intended to recruit students – primarily African Americans – into research on prevention and control of cancer disparities. Although final evaluation of the program’s overall outcome will not be available for several years, a preliminary evaluation indicates the program is being successful.