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University of Minnesota Researchers Awarded $2.06M Grant from The NCI

Leaders in the Program in Health Disparities Research (PHDR) and the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota recently received a $2,063,688 award from the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health for their R25 project, “Minnesota Advancing Science, Enhancing Diversity: M-ASCEND.”

M-ASCEND was developed in response to the NCI’s call for proposals for the Youth Enjoy Science (YES) Program. According to the NCI, the YES Programwill support efforts to create and maintain an institutional program to engage grades 6-12 and/or undergraduate students from underrepresented populations in cutting-edge cancer research experiences.

“The long-term goal of this project is to address the needs of our increasingly diverse patient population in Minnesota and the United States by enhancing the diversity of the cancer research workforce,” said Michele Allen, MD, MS, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and the Director of the PHDR Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“M-ASCEND builds on ten years of high school and undergraduate health equity cancer research-focused mentorship and education activities,” said Christopher Pennell, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, and the Associate Director of Education at the Masonic Cancer Center.

Drs. Allen and Pennell will work alongside Susan Everson-Rose, PhD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, and the Associate Director of the PHDR.

The research team will use the award to start the M-ASCEND program, a theoretically guided, evidence driven program designed to grow the numbers of cancer-focused scientists from groups underrepresented in science and to guide their development towards future careers in cancer research.

The program leverages local equity-oriented innovations in education and positive youth development with the expertise and teachings of Medical School colleagues Renee Crichlow, MD, and Veronica Svetaz, MD, MPH, and will work to deepen the science-focused skills of high school teachers that are serving students who are underrepresented in science, through a hands-on research lab experience.

For more information on PHDR:

About the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, is the Twin Cities’ only Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated ‘Outstanding’ by the National Cancer Institute. As Minnesota’s Cancer Center, we have served the entire state for more than 25 years. Our researchers, educators, and care providers have worked to discover the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer and cancer-related diseases. Learn more at

About the Program in Health Disparities Research, University of Minnesota Medical School

The University of Minnesota Medical School Program in Health Disparities Research is driven to improve health for all through collaborative research, innovative education, community engagement, and policy. PHDR supports educational programs to develop the next generation of health equity researchers through high-quality mentoring and training at the high school, undergraduate, graduate, and junior faculty levels. The program is committed to expanding the diversity of the health equity research workforce. For more information, visit