September 25, 2015

Prestigious Komen traineeship awarded to UAB School of Nursing

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Karen MenesesKaren MenesesThe University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Nursing has been awarded a three-year, $405,000 Susan G. Komen Graduate Training in Disparities Research Grant to provide pre-doctoral scholars with stipends and other financial support, along with a specialized curriculum of didactic coursework, tailored research activities, networking and career skills development in research to pursue training in breast cancer disparities.

Graduate Training in Disparities Research Grants are designed to establish and sustain a training program for graduate students seeking careers dedicated to understanding and eliminating disparities in breast cancer outcomes across population groups. By providing funding to outstanding training programs, Komen seeks to ensure that a diverse pool of highly trained scientists will emerge as the next generation of leaders in the field of breast cancer research focused on disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

“Our Komen trainees will participate in the rich diversity of interdisciplinary research at UAB,” said Karen Meneses, Ph.D., associate dean for Research. “This includes the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and the Minority Health Research Center.”

Wendy Demark WahnefriedWendy Demark-WahnefriedMeneses says the program is important to UAB because it will help attract more minority students who are interested in defeating disparities in breast cancer. The program is particularly important to the School of Nursing because it allows the doctoral degree program to increase pre-doctoral enrollment and funding in order to better meet the goal of training nurse scientists for the future. These goals include attracting top-level graduate students — specifically those from populations affected by disparities in breast cancer outcomes — into research careers, empower these students with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively explore the causes of differential breast cancer outcomes, and develop interventions to reduce and eliminate such disparities.

“This award is particularly relevant for the state of Alabama since there are tremendous racial disparities with African-American women dying from breast cancer at rates that are roughly 60 percent higher than non-Hispanic white women,” said Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., professor and Webb Endowed Chair in Nutrition Sciences in the School of Health Professions and associate director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We have to find reasons that this occurs and solve the problem. Training the next generation of young scholars may be one way to resolve these disparities.”

Meneses and Demark-Wahnefried will be mentors or advisers for the Komen trainees.

Meneses is a pre-eminent, internationally known researcher in cancer survivorship disparities research with a prolific and sustained history of scientific contributions, methodological innovations and evidence-driven translational programs that have improved the lives of cancer survivors. In 2013, she was appointed to the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Board for Young Women with Breast Cancer.

Demark-Wahnefried holds a secondary appointment in the School of Nursing. She is the associate director of Cancer Prevention and Control at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and is an American Cancer Society clinical research professor.

Meneses and Demark-Wahnefried also co-direct the UAB Cancer Prevention and Control R25 Training Program.

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