Selected Speeches

CABTRAC Diversity Pipeline Programs

Oct. 11, 2019
Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology

Good morning, everyone. For those of you from out of town, it’s my great privilege to welcome you to Baltimore.

I thank CABTRAC for selecting our city as its 2019 host site. It means quite a lot to us. I’m indebted to Dr. Kevin Cullen, director of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, and to CABTRAC Executive Committee Member Dr. Toni Antalis, director of education and training programs at Greenebaum. They’ve put a great deal of work into organizing this year’s retreat.

I’m honored that we’re joined by Dr. Tony Beck of the SEPA Program at NIGMS, and Dr. Alison Lin of NCI’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, two people on the front lines of American efforts to prepare a robust & diverse cancer science workforce.

This is actually the second time in a week that I’ve been fortunate to see Dr. Lin. She’s a valued colleague who’s provided wise counsel to our UMB CURE Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. UMB CURE Scholars is our pipeline program starting with middle school students in West Baltimore.

This past Saturday, we held our fifth annual White Coat Ceremony for our newest class of scholars—25 sixth-graders from three West Baltimore partner schools. For many of us at UMB, that ceremony is one of our top 10 favorite moments all year long. A little later, you’ll hear more about UMB CURE from Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis and Dr. Elizabeth Parker, and I thank them for being here.

You know, it wasn’t simply luck that brought CABTRAC and this satellite meeting to Baltimore.

When the Greenebaum Cancer Center earned its “comprehensive” designation in 2016, Dr. Henry Ciolino, director of the NCI Office of Cancer Centers, sent an email to the Greenebaum director, Dr. Cullen. Dr. Ciolino said it bothered him that the review criteria for comprehensive status didn’t fully reflect the fact that education and training is a core mission of NCI, a central part of its work. And he said what impressed him the most about Greenebaum’s application was that we didn’t let the criteria sway us.

In our submission and our site visit, we heavily emphasized education and training. And now? Now cancer education is a scorable criterion for P30 evaluation! Dr. Bret Hassel—who’s done so much to put this meeting together—has quite a lot to do with that. Greenebaum could play to its strengths in education and training because Dr. Hassel has helped us build those strengths. He and his colleagues—like Dr. Greg Carey, who will also speak today—have developed and reinforced programs, middle school through post-graduate education, that draw the support of NIGMS and NCI—and that produce incredibly well-prepared cancer scientists. I thank them all.

Before I turn the podium over to our next speaker, I have to say there’s one more reason I’m thrilled that this Diversity Pipeline Programs meeting is being held in Baltimore. In this city, where 63 percent of our neighbors are Black, where nearly three-quarters are people of color, where we see grave disparities in cancer prevalence, morbidity, and mortality, it is a particularly exigent mission of ours to grow and nurture generations of researchers who will work on the science—and, yes, on the policy and practice—of closing these gaps.

A diverse cancer workforce, a diverse biomedical workforce, a workforce of men and women fully representative of the populations they serve, is essential to efficacy and innovation; it’s essential to eliminating these disparities and achieving health equity.

That’s why it’s a key priority for all of us in Baltimore. And I know it’s a priority of yours as well. I’m so glad you’re here.

It’s now my honor to introduce Dr. Nikos Pavlidis, vice president and general manager for Molecular Diagnostics and Women’s Health at Becton Dickinson. BD is a longtime friend & partner to UMB and to the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the company is an enormously valuable advocate for cancer-focused STEM education.

I thank BD for serving as today’s corporate sponsor, I thank Steve Kaiser of Kaiser Associates Strategic Communications for facilitating BD’s contribution to this meeting, and I thank Dr. Pavlidis for joining us. Please welcome Dr. Nikos Pavlidis.

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