Statistics show that in New Jersey, cancer strikes more often in minority communities, and Rutgers Cancer Institute is trying to make the cancer researchers of the future a more diverse group.
Its program designed to introduce high school and college students from minority groups to medical research, the Rutgers Youth Enjoy Science Program (RUYES), has just gotten a grant of more than a million and a half dollars from the National Cancer Institute.
Sunita Chaudhary is the director of research education at the Rutgers institute. She said this money will improve its outreach. “We will be focusing on areas where there is a high percentage of underrepresented students, so places like Newark, Camden, Paterson, and of course New Brunswick,” she said. The program started in New Brunswick.
Chaudhary said it has had a high success rate. Just about all of the high school students in the program over the past 10 years have gone on to science-related majors in college, she said, and for college students it's a similar story. “Of the undergraduates that we’ve had, 87 percent have gone on to do graduate studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas which includes PhD’s, MD’s, MD/PhD’s at some of the most prestigious universities,” she said.
Chaudhary said the grant will also allow the program to be expanded to middle school students.
She said the pandemic has forced some changes for summer 2021 when the program resumes. It will likely have a hybrid model if it cannot be done in-person, she said, since many aspects of it can be done virtually, such as learning about the biology of cancer and cultural biases in research.