Chris Pennell and M-ASCEND students explore a laboratory cold room.

Training the next generation of cancer doctors, researchers, and care providers

Equipping and exciting the next generation of health care professionals and researchers is a huge priority in cancer research and care. And at MCC, we’re doubling down on dedicating a large portion of our energy to STEM-related training that opens up pathways to cancer careers for youth in our communities. STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. By coaching and equipping young students who are interested in these fields, we have an opportunity to help develop future generations of doctors, nurses, scientists, educators, and other care providers. 

For the Education and Training team at MCC, this type of investment is crucial. “This is how our science gets out into the community and prepares the next generation of leaders in cancer research and care,” says Cathleen Drilling, education and training manager for MCC. 

MCC’s Education and Training initiatives have recently ramped up, but a staple offering of the last 15 years is our intensive high school and undergraduate internship programming, currently called the M-ASCEND program. Short for “Minnesota-Advancing Science, Enhancing Diversity”, M-ASCEND is designed to support the academic persistence of high school and undergraduate students who are under-represented in science and medicine and promote their progress toward future careers in cancer research.

And the programming boasts impressive numbers: Of the total undergraduate students who have gone through the program, 80 percent have remained in a science, health, or medical-related field. 

Recently, the program has expanded to support educators as well. “We’ve been working with Minnesota teachers to help them plan and implement curriculum changes that will excite their students about cancer biology and relevant career pathways. This has allowed us to expand our partnerships with local schools as well,” says Cathleen. “We’ve even hosted some of those schools at our cancer research facilities on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus and shown students the ins and outs of our lab work.” 

Christopher Pennell, PhD, a program leader for M-ASCEND and associate director of training and education for MCC, notes, “Diversifying the cancer research workforce is critical to addressing the pressing needs of increasingly diverse patient populations in Minnesota and across the U.S. We’re thrilled to play our part in advancing these efforts right here in the Twin Cities.”

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