SBCC collaborates with many well-established training programs for graduate and medical students to promote cancer research. These include five NIH-funded T32 institutional research training programs, including the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD-PhD), Pharmacological Sciences, Chemistry-Biology Interface, Infectious Disease and Scholars in Biomedical Sciences, all of which have cancer tracks and cancer-focused trainees (about 50 percent of the trainees work in cancer labs).
Additional programs include the Scholarly Concentration in Medicine, grant writing workshops and multiple graduate programs that focus on aspects of cancer research. Students in these programs attend cancer research seminars, SBCC symposia and SBCC retreats where they compete for poster awards and the opportunity to give oral presentations. At these functions, they have the opportunity to meet with external speakers and potential role models about their career paths. The students also receive support for travel to national meetings on cancer research.
Students who are on the PhD track in these programs have training opportunities for clinical emersion to prepare them for team-based research careers and can take courses that prepare them to engage in clinical trials. Diversity-oriented opportunities include the NIH-funded T32 (Maximizing Student Development: Maximizing Excellence in Research for Graduate Education (IMSD-MERGE)) program (half of the trainees work in cancer labs). Programs focused on supporting the career progression of women in biomedical science have also been developed.
Cancer education and research training takes place in many graduate programs:
- The T32-funded Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology Program includes training in cancer signaling pathways and drug development.
- The Program in Genetics offers a more general, team-taught, two-semester course in Cancer Biology.
- The T32-Chemical Biology Training Program offers drug development training in greater depth.
- The Biomedical Engineering graduate program offers courses in single cell and genomics analysis.
- The Bioinformatics graduate program offers training in big data, RNA Seq, and similar types of analyses (currently, the 11 BMI students all work on cancer-related projects).
An advantage SBU has in comparison to many other medical schools is that the medical campus is physically integrated with the remainder of the institution, facilitating collaboration with non-medical school departments such as applied math, chemistry, bio¬med¬ical engineering, physics and other engineering specialties. SBU also has a T32-funded Initiative for Maximizing Student Development-Maximizing Excellence in Research for Graduate Education (IMSD-MERGE) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) that focuses on diversity by providing a path for students graduating from community colleges to transfer to SBU for additional training. Here, they can pursue STEM training and careers to prepare them for seamless advancement into successful research careers.
Currently, SBU’s T32-funded Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) (MD-PhD) program has 65 students, half of whom are performing their research in cancer labs. Evening courses are held twice a month to meet with physician-scientist role models and for journal club-clinical pathological case presentations. Almost half of these are on cancer topics and led by SBCC members. Participating in these evenings are also students in the T32-funded Scholars in Biomedical Science (SMBS) program, which provides clinical perspective and training to graduate students.
Special emphasis is extended to recruit a diverse class of students, supported by the School of Medicine Turner Fellowships. Emphasis is also placed on training in grant writing for the MSTP students. A semester-long boot-camp on the academic content of the applications is run by the MSTP leadership, culminating in submission of an application by each student. Finally, the institution now awards a $5,000 bonus to students who receive NRSA awards as an incentive for applying for the grant and in recognition of the achievement.
About a quarter of the medical students enter SBU’s “Scholarly Concentration Program,” which entails a summer of research after year one and then effort during year four. Of these, a third undertake training with SBCC members, aiming to complete small, defined projects (generally more translational or clinical in nature than for the MSTP and SBMS students). The SBCC provides summer stipends for these students.
The SBCC also sponsors an Oncology Interest Group for medical students. This group meets regularly and invites academic faculty to present and discuss their work in cancer research or cancer medicine. Both the medical and graduate students can obtain training in Clinical Trials Management through courses offered to address the training needs of clinical fellows, and some of the students training in SBCC labs do so.
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Sciences (AACCS)
SBU is the institution at which the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Sciences (AACCS) was founded and continues to flourish with national reach. The SBCC works closely with the AACCS, including training sessions in public messaging for leadership and the faculty. SBCC faculty undertake training courses in science communication from the highly ranked AACCS offerings, which provides invaluable training for their interaction with news media and the lay public in philanthropic events.