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Building a Diverse Pool of Leaders in Cancer Care and Research

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Cedars-Sinai Cancer provides an equitable and inclusive future in cancer research and clinical care for a diverse population by targeting every level of learner—from high school students through senior faculty.

At Cedars-Sinai Cancer, the Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination Office (CRTEC) supports the next generation of cancer researchers and specialists while helping address cancer health disparities in both professional and patient communities. Through targeted educational programming, CRTEC coordinates education across the professional continuum, from high school learners through senior-level management.

With a focus on building an inclusive cancer research workforce, CRTEC embodies an important aspiration of Cedars-Sinai Cancer: to revolutionize the current research community while seeding it with greater diversity for generations to come.

Starting Early: Preparing for Careers in Cancer

Cedars-Sinai Cancer researchers speak to local high school students during field trips to the hospital campus to educate them about careers in cancer research. Hands-on demonstrations allow students to experience real-life research work. In conjunction with an internship-based high school pipeline initiative sponsored by local nonprofits planned for 2024, CRTEC expects an uptick in interest in cancer-related science, technology, engineering and math careers among diverse communities of high schoolers.

CRTEC also introduces talented undergraduate students to the wide range of careers available to them in cancer research. The yearlong intensive program, called Undergraduates Gaining Research Opportunities for the Cancer Workforce (U-GROW), selects students from racially and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds through a collaboration with eight California State University (CSU) campuses in Southern California. The CSU system offers the most ethnically, racially and socioeconomically diverse undergraduate programs in the nation and serves more than 200,000 students.

U-GROW pairs each student with a Cedars-Sinai Cancer researcher for training and mentorship. It also includes an intensive summer internship and yearlong scientific writing and discovery workshops to help with practical preparation for doctoral programs. The program aims to promote inclusiveness and diversity in the field of cancer research while preparing students to become future leaders in scientific disciplines.

Focusing on Expanding the Application of AI

Careers in cancer research and care increasingly require training in AI methods and applications. Cedars-Sinai Cancer has partnered with the Department of Computational Biomedicine and the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research and Education (CAIRE) at Cedars-Sinai to expand their early-investigator AI-training initiatives (via the AI Campus framework). This coordinated effort provides local university students with education and experience working with cancer data.

The AI workforce initiative matches undergraduate and graduate students with AI-focused cancer researchers to introduce them to AI fundamentals and facilitate their participation in national AI competitions.

Its goal is to expand the pipeline and diversity of students seeking formal AI education and employment in cancer research.

Across the Career Continuum: From Fellows to Full-Time Faculty

Cedars-Sinai Cancer provides a suite of training opportunities to ensure that all faculty and staff have the resources they need to grow professionally and personally. Through grant-writing courses, vouchers that support trainees with biostatistics or biomedical data science shared resources, leadership mentoring, training opportunities for more senior faculty, and more, CRTEC helps set up researchers and clinicians for success, regardless of their background or where they are in their careers.

The many CRTEC training and development programs available are now augmented by the Convergent Science Virtual Cancer Center. This novel endeavor, led by Cedars-Sinai Cancer Director Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, sponsors collaborative research and career development for early-stage investigators across the nation’s leading cancer programs.

A second cohort of seven scholars has now joined the virtual center, enabling even greater strides in cancer innovations and rapid progress toward some of the field’s most pressing questions.

CRTEC’s programs, the Committee for Advisement of Diverse Education and Training, and other Cedars-Sinai Cancer initiatives aim to strengthen the field of cancer research through advancement of people from socially or economically marginalized groups, enhanced training opportunities across the career spectrum, recruitment of diverse experts at every career stage, widespread faculty mentorship, and research on diverse populations.

Big Goals, Consistent Leadership Support

Cedars-Sinai Cancer is committed to becoming a national model for implementing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in cancer centers by providing resources and opportunities for advanced training, education and career development to individuals from historically marginalized groups; enhancing the diversity of our membership and leadership; and providing our patients equal access to participation in clinical trials.

To promote progress toward these goals, CRTEC has the support of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee (DEISC), which is chaired by the associate director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, and a formal internal plan to enhance diversity. Together, they ensure CRTEC proactively integrates diverse populations into their educational initiatives and outreach.

In addition, DEISC members, all of whom hold leadership roles across Cedars-Sinai, work to ensure that new endeavors align with strategic priorities as well as diversity, equity and inclusion values—and that present and future resources are available to drive progress toward a more diverse workforce and research portfolio.

With these efforts underway, the future for Cedars-Sinai Cancer will include more diverse faculty, equity in training and promotion opportunities, and a more inclusive community of faculty and staff at all levels.