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Undergraduate cancer training program for underrepresented students: findings from a minority institution/cancer center partnership.

Research paper by Gloria D GD Coronado, Mary A MA O'Connell, Jennifer J Anderson, Helena H Löest, Dana D Ogaz, Beti B Thompson

Indexed on: 19 Jan '10Published on: 19 Jan '10Published in: Journal of Cancer Education



Abstract

Students from racially/ethnically diverse backgrounds are underrepresented in graduate programs in biomedical disciplines. One goal of the Minority Institution/Cancer Center partnership between New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) is to expand the number of underrepresented students who are trained in cancer research. As part of the collaboration, a summer internship program has been organized at the FHCRC. The program runs for 9 weeks and involves mentored research, research seminars, coffee breaks, social activities, and a final poster session. This study examined the graduate school attendance rates of past interns, explored interns' perceptions of the training program, and identified ways to improve the program. Thirty undergraduate students enrolled at NMSU participated in the internship program from 2002 to 2007 and telephone interviews were conducted on 22 (73%) of them. One-third of the students were currently in graduate school (32%); the remaining were either working (36%), still in undergraduate school (27%), or unemployed and not in school (5%). Students rated highly the following aspects of the program: mentored research, informal time spent with mentors, and research seminars. Students also reported the following activities would further enhance the program: instruction on writing a personal statement for graduate school and tips in choosing an advisor. Students also desired instruction on taking the GRE/MCAT, receiving advice on selecting a graduate or professional school, and receiving advice on where to apply. These findings can inform the design of internship programs aimed at increasing rates of graduate school attendance among underrepresented students.