Nationally, fewer than 5 percent of all doctorates awarded in the biological sciences go to African Americans. Hispanics, American Indians and some Asian and Pacific Islander groups are similarly under-represented in the ranks of Ph.D. medical researchers in the United States.
With a four-year, $300,000 "CURE " grant from the National Cancer Institute, UC Davis Cancer Center leaders hope to address this disparity by giving students from under-represented groups the preparation they need to study cancer-related sciences at four-year universities.
The CURE grant, for Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences, funds an intensive program in basic, clinical and population sciences for promising students at Sacramento High School, a charter school founded by former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson. UC Davis Health System contributed an additional $40,000 in support. Only National Cancer Institute centers are eligible to apply for CURE grants.
Already, the first class of 20 students – the majority of them from under-represented groups – has embarked on a two-year program of coursework, field study and research experiences centered at the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology at UC Davis. Pam Castori, a veteran science teacher, coordinates the program. Cancer Center and Center for Biophotonics faculty act as mentors.