Dr. Marvella Ford, Associate Director for Cancer Disparities at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center (left), and Bobbie Blake (right), who completed the MUSC research program.
Teaching a Love of Research and Innovation
A potential cancer cure begins at home
South Carolina has some of the highest cancer health disparities in the nation, according to Marvella E. Ford, Ph.D., Associate Director for Cancer Disparities at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. In 2015, Ford received new support from the National Cancer Institute to fund an educational approach to the crisis: a $1.2 million, five-year grant that connects youth in the most affected communities with leading cancer researchers at MUSC. “Our students are growing up in communities being decimated by these disparities,” says Ford. “They really want to learn the tools to improve the health of their communities.”
For 14 weeks each summer (beginning summer 2016), 21 student fellows from South Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities–Claflin University, Voorhees College, and South Carolina State University–will be paired with cancer researchers at MUSC. Fellows will be immersed in full-time cancer disparities research, i.e., biology and epidemiology lectures and hands-on laboratory training in basic cancer research methods. The funding establishes MUSC’s first semester-long cancer health equity research curriculum and expands a program started at Hollings in 2007 by Ford and colleagues to diversify the state’s population of biomedical and biobehavioral scientists.
Ford believes that training a diverse group of South Carolina students in cancer research will improve the state’s ability to fight cancer. “The students in our program are excited to work at MUSC with some of the greatest cancer researchers in the country,” says Ford. “We’re issuing them a message of hope.”