WASHINGTON, DC (October 27, 2022)—Today, LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading lung cancer-focused nonprofit organization, launched a Minority Mentorship and Training Program to increase diversity in thoracic oncology and ensure that minority researchers and clinicians have the support and training they need to thrive in their careers.
The lack of representation in STEM fields has alienated minority scholars, who often face bias and racism at all career stages, leading many to leave academia. LUNGevity is looking for new solutions that will impact healthcare delivery in the future. In addition to the issue of the lack of diversity in the workforce, it is well known that minority patients have better outcomes when their clinicians look like them, as they have more confidence that they will be listened to and treated fairly.
“The traditional solution to increasing diversity in STEM has been to fund new programs to train minority scholars. However, funding alone is not a solution unless there is also intent to holistically train, mentor, and support these scholars and set them up for success in their careers,” said Eugene Manley, Jr, PhD, Director of STEM Workforce Initiatives at LUNGevity Foundation and the creator of this new program. “As a Black man who was the first in my family to go to college, I know from experience the countless obstacles that minority researchers and clinicians face in academia. I’m proud to say that LUNGevity is committed to improving diversity in the lung cancer workforce to better serve an increasingly diverse patient population.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US and globally. Although African Americans and Black Americans have the highest incidence of lung cancer in the US, this population is significantly underrepresented in STEM fields and oncology[i]. This is also true for Hispanic/Latinx Americans and American Indians and Alaska Natives[ii]. Barriers that minority researchers and clinicians face include lack of respect, not receiving funding, and fear of reprisals[iii]. Additionally, minority scholars often face repeated micro- and macroaggressions that they cannot report because of a lack of institutional support.
Robert Winn, MD, director of VCU Massey Cancer Center, noted, “As a LUNGevity Board member, I am proud that the organization is taking steps toward holistically supporting underrepresented scientists in STEM.”
The Minority Mentorship and Training Program is a complement to LUNGevity’s Health Equity and Inclusiveness Research Fellow and Junior Investigator Awards, which aim to support diversity and inclusivity within the scientific lung cancer community, with special attention being paid to populations underrepresented in STEM. The 2022 awards were given to five early-career researchers in September. Each of the awardees will participate in the pilot phase of the Minority Mentorship and Training Program.
The program will train scholars in the grant writing process, provide professional career development to prepare them for life after training is completed, expose trainees to alternative career paths to ensure they are aware of how to transition if they leave academia, and provide multiple layers of external mentorship to mitigate dependence on one principal investigator.
“We see this program as an important step in LUNGevity’s commitment to improving health equity, starting with diversifying the workforce. While other funding organizations support minority researchers, we know that just providing funds is not sufficient. Through wraparound mentoring and support, we seek to have a workforce that reflects the communities with the highest incidence and mortality rates of lung cancer and increases overall survival,” said Andrea Ferris, President and CEO of LUNGevity. “We are making this long-term investment to nurture the field of lung cancer and impact the patients of tomorrow.”
The first cohort to be trained through this program includes:
Rebecca Shulman, MD
The Research Institute of Fox Chase Cancer Center
Project: Synergistic expression of combined RT and dual-immune checkpoint blockade
Narjust Florez, MD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project: Young lung cancer: Psychosocial needs assessment
Coral Olazagasti, MD
University of Miami
Project: Promoting lung cancer screening in Latinx patients with previous HNSCC
Ana Velasquez Manana, MD
University of California, San Francisco
Project: Lung Equity Through Social needs SCREENING (LETS SCREEN)
Jonathan Villena-Vargas, MD
Weil Medical College of Cornell University
Project: Tumor draining lymph node immunomodulation to decrease recurrence in NSCLC
LUNGevity thanks Thermo Fisher Scientific for its generous support of this program.
About LUNGevity Foundation
LUNGevity Foundation is the nation's leading lung cancer organization focused on improving outcomes for people with lung cancer. The foundation works tirelessly to advance research into early detection and more effective treatments, and to ensure that patients have access to these advances. LUNGevity seeks to make an immediate impact on quality of life and survivorship for everyone touched by the disease—while promoting health equity by addressing disparities throughout the care continuum. LUNGevity provides information and educational tools to empower patients and their caregivers, promote impactful public policy initiatives, and amplify the patient voice through research and engagement. The organization provides an active community for patients and survivors—and those who help them live better and longer lives.
Comprehensive resources include a medically vetted and patient-centric website, a toll-free HELPLine for support, the International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference, and an easy-to-use Clinical Trial Finder, among other tools. All of these programs are to achieve our vision—a world where no one dies of lung cancer. LUNGevity Foundation is proud to be a four-star Charity Navigator organization.
About Lung Cancer in the US
- About 1 in 17 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.
- More than 236,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.
- About 60%-65% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers.
- Lung cancer takes more lives in the United States than the next two deadliest cancers (colorectal and pancreatic) combined.
- Only about 23% of all people diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States will survive 5 years or more, BUT if it is caught before it spreads, the chance of 5-year survival improves dramatically.
Please visit LUNGevity.org to learn more.
[i] Estrada M, Burnett M, Campbell AG, Campbell PB, Denetclaw WF, Gutierrez CG, et al. Improving Underrepresented Minority Student Persistence in STEM. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2016;15(3).
[ii] Estrada M, Burnett M, Campbell AG, Campbell PB, Denetclaw WF, Gutierrez CG, et al. Improving Underrepresented Minority Student Persistence in STEM. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2016;15(3).
[iii] Soule EK, Ford S, Newton RL, Jr, Thomas A, Eissenberg T. Perceived Barriers to Serving on National Institutes of Health Scientific Review Groups Experienced by Black and African American Scientists. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(7):e22220.