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UK program addressing rural cancer health disparities

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A new training program at the University of Kentucky will help develop the next generation of scientists needed to reduce Kentucky’s burden of high cancer incidence and mortality rates.

Funded by a $764,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute, Addressing Rural cancer Inequities through Scientific Excellence (ARISE) is focused on preparing postdoctoral researchers to address cancer-related health disparities in Appalachian Kentucky.

“Appalachian residents suffer from some of the highest rates of cancer in the nation. ARISE is helping to meet the critical need for more researchers who can develop and implement evidence-based behavioral interventions effective at reducing the suffering, burdens, and costs associated with high cancer mortality in Kentucky,” Nancy Schoenberg, Ph.D., UK’s associate vice president for research, the Marion Pearsall Professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Behavioral Science, and founding director of UK’s Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET).

Over five years, ARISE will provide 10 postdoctoral researchers with extensive training, hands-on experience, and connections to mentorship, allowing them to cultivate highly sought-after skills that will lead to successful careers in cancer research. With the first cohort beginning early 2022, two trainees will be recruited each year until 2026.

Schoenberg is co-directing the project with Mark Dignan, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Markey Cancer Center.

“ARISE will also complement other T32 training programs at the Markey Cancer Center. Two ongoing programs provide support for basic science and clinical research training,” said Dignan. “Adding ARISE extends training opportunities from the bench to the bedside and now to the community.”

The program is based within CHET and will operate in close collaboration with UK’s Markey Cancer Center; Center for Clinical and Translational ScienceCenter for Appalachian Research in Environmental SciencesOffice of Postdoctoral AffairsOffice of the Vice President for Research; and departments across several UK colleges.

ARISE is funded by a prestigious NCI Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award T32 grant, which supports projects aimed at developing or enhancing research training opportunities for pre and postdoctoral fellows to be trained in cancer research. ARISE is unique among current T32 training programs for cancer prevention, control, and survivorship, as few others focus on health equity among rural populations — and is the only T32 program to focus specifically on rural Appalachia.

During their two-year fellowships, trainees will focus on one of three thematic behavioral cancer tracks: environment, risk behavior, and health care delivery. The transdisciplinary approach is aimed at meeting the training and professional advancement needs of scholars pursuing roles in applied behavioral science, including intervention development and evaluation and dissemination and implementation science.

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