OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Presents Diversity in Cancer Research Summer Internship

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OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Presents Diversity in Cancer Research Summer Internship

In order to increase opportunities in the healthcare field for underrepresented minority groups, OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center recently hosted the Diversity in Cancer Research (DiCR) summer internship.

The program was supported by the American Cancer Society Extramural Discovery Sciences department, which provided a grant for eight participating students. A private donor further funded two students from underrepresented minority groups to participate in the internship.

The National Science Foundation reports there is an underrepresentation of particular racial and ethnic groups in health-related sciences. Rajagopal Ramesh, Ph.D., associate director for Education, Training and Career Enhancement at Stephenson Cancer Center and a professor of pathology in the OU College of Medicine said, “As a state and an institute, we want to encourage and engage minority populations. We want to involve them in the medical and biomedical field so that they will be successful, and will benefit their communities. Minority populations traditionally have a lack of trust in the medical world and the DiCR internship program is a way to connect them to the medical field, and to cancer research specifically.”

Joan Walker, M.D., associate director for Diversity Equity and Inclusion at Stephenson Cancer Center works hard to improve the workforce to be more inclusive and to increase representation of underrepresented minorities. “Overcoming barriers to health equity will only be accomplished by recruiting more workforce who look like our community and improve communication and access to excellent healthcare to our community members,” she said.

“Under Dr. Walker and Dr. Ramesh’s leadership, we continue provide new and innovative opportunities in addressing healthcare disparities in cancer care,” said Robert C. Salinas, M.D., assistant dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Nancy K. Hall Endowed Chair in Medical Education at the OU College of Medicine.

The internship program was available for undergraduate students who had completed 60 college credit hours. The selected participants were Oklahoma institute students, not all were Oklahoma residents -- representing multiple minority groups. The program involved 10 weeks of cancer-focused research in which the students were assigned a project to work on throughout the internship. They attended sessions on topics covering career development and research skills.

“Through our commitment to diversity in research, we are working to ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer,” said Jeff Fehlis, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society’s South Region.