Increasing the Representation of Minority Students in the Biomedical Workforce: the ReTOOL Program

Research paper by Folakemi T. Odedina, R. R. Reams, E. Kaninjing, J. Nguyen, B. Mochona, D. E. Lyon, N. Askins, L. S. Behar-Horenstein

Indexed on: 15 Mar '18Published on: 15 Mar '18Published in: Journal of Cancer Education


With the growing burden of cancer in minority populations and limited progress in eliminating cancer disparities, it has become important to develop a diverse oncology workforce in basic, clinical, and behavioral research who will address cancer disparities and increase the participation of minority populations in clinical trials. To address the lack of well-trained underrepresented minority cancer scientists in Florida, the University of Florida collaborated with Florida A&M University in 2012 to establish the Florida Prostate Cancer Research Training Opportunities for Outstanding Leaders (ReTOOL) Program. Since 2012, the ReTOOL program has expanded to (1) cover all areas of cancer disparities; (2) offer training opportunities to minority students from all historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Florida; and (3) successfully secure both intramural and extramural federal funding to continuously provide research training opportunities for minority students in Florida. Focusing primarily on training Black students, the ReTOOL model includes culturally sensitive recruitment, mentorship, didactic curriculum, networking, and hands on experience in cancer research. This paper discusses the lessons learned from administering the ReTOOL program for 5 years, which includes having the right inputs (such as majority-minority institutions partnership, funding, faculty advisors, committed mentors, culturally competent staff, and standardized program requirements) and processes (such as pipeline approach, structured applications system, didactic curriculum, research experience, and continuous mentoring) for an effective research training program. The program impact is an increase in the pool of underrepresented minority candidates with scientific and academic career progression paths focused on reducing cancer health disparities.

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