Preparing historically underrepresented trainees for biomedical cancer research careers at Huntsman Cancer Institute/University of Utah Health

Ana María López, José E. Rodríguez, Kathryn Browning Hawes, Anna Marsden, Don Ayer, Donna Harp Ziegenfuss, Kola Okuyemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the well-documented inequities in health care outcomes by race, ethnicity, and gender, many health career pipeline programs have focused on supporting the development of a diverse and inclusive workforce. The State of Utah, is vast, but sparsely populated outside the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. More than 96% of our nearly 85,000 square miles is designated rural (<100 people/square mile) or frontier (<7 people/square mile). The Salt Lake City area is home to the Hunsman Cancer Institute, the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region, also noted the limited diversity in the biomedical cancer research workforce. Our primary objective was to increase the number of underrepresented trainees who pursue higher education with the goal of a career in cancer research. PathMaker is a regional, competitive pipeline program that nurtures high school or undergraduate trainees from historically underrepresented backgrounds towards a career in cancer research. Our faculty and staff team collaboratively developed a cohort model curriculum that increased student awareness of research career options; provided academic and professional development, cultural and social support, evolutionary success strategies, active mentorship, and leadership skill development; and fostered an environment of continuous evaluation and improvement. Since pilot program initiation in May 2016, the PathMaker Research Program (PathMaker) has engaged a total of 44 underrepresented trainees in cancer research labs at Huntsman Cancer Institute, the majority still in college. Eleven trainees graduated college: five employed in STEM, one pursuing a PhD in STEM; two in medical school, and three are lost to follow-up. Alumni report high levels of satisfaction with PathMaker and will be followed and supported for academic success. PathMaker is a replicable model to increase diversity and inclusion in the biomedical cancer research workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1929045
JournalMedical Education Online
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Pipeline program
  • health care career
  • health equity
  • partnership
  • underrepresented trainees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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