Cancer Fellows Summer Research Program for Underrepresented Students

Four Chicago institutions teach students skills to prepare for careers in research and health care

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) has kicked off the inaugural Summer Research Fellows program. The ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows program is a comprehensive, paid eight-week summer learning experience for undergraduate and post baccalaureate students from Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago and the City Colleges of Chicago.

The program is focused on the development of academic, technical and professional skills in preparation for careers in social, behavioral and biomedical research and in health care.  Through immersion experiences, group projects, journal clubs and mentoring, ChicagoCHEC research fellows will gain important knowledge, skills and networks for their journey to become researchers and health care professionals who can bring diverse perspectives and experiences to advance the nation’s work toward cancer health equity.

At the culmination of the eight weeks, fellows will have learned fundamental research practices and methodologies, pertinent research content topics (e.g. cancer inequity and recruitment of underserved minorities in clinical trials), social contexts for health inequity across the cancer continuum and critical professional development practices and networks

The program leverages the expertise of leading scholars and cancer researchers, health professionals, institutional leadership and community leaders across Chicago taking part as guest lecturers, project mentors and site visit hosts. The program is an opportunity to move the needle on health by expanding opportunities to the next generation in a way that also changes the architecture of collaboration, community engagement and the culture of research education to address health inequities.

The principal investigators include Dr. Melissa Simon of Northwestern University, Dr. Robert Winn of University of Illinois at Chicago, and Christina Ciecierski and Moira Stuart of Northeastern Illinois University.

The summer research fellows program is not the only initiative from ChicagoCHEC geared toward students.

“The summer research fellows program is the first of its kind to advance research, leadership and community engagement capabilities in this high potential group of underrepresented minority, nontraditional and first-generation college students,” Simon said. “But after a holistic recruitment and interview process, there was so much demand for the program and only 12 spots available. Hence, we started an affiliates program as a separate pipeline for future potential summer research fellows as well.”

Simon is vice chair of clinical research in obstetrics and gynecology, the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and of preventive medicine and of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.