Cancer Prevention Fellowship

Program Description

Applications are invited for the joint Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) Educational Program in Cancer Prevention. This program draws on the teaching, scientific research, and field activities of Harvard Chan, the clinical resources of the DFCI, and the shared laboratory and scientific facilities of both institutions to form the basis for a comprehensive education program in cancer prevention and control. The National Cancer Institute funds this program.  To be eligible, applicants must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident.

The overall goal of the program is to create a cadre of public health and clinical professionals who will be:

(a) knowledgeable about the current state of the science of cancer prevention;

(b) expert in a specialized research area in which they will be positioned to generate new knowledge and public health practice to advance cancer prevention;

(c) skilled in transdisciplinary approaches to research in Cancer Prevention and Control; and

(d) sufficiently well anchored in professional networks that they will be able to monitor future developments in the field of cancer prevention and translate their knowledge into cancer prevention research at a variety of institutional settings.

Structure of the Program

The program is directed by Vish Viswanath, Harvard School of Public Health; Harvard Medical School; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. and co-directed by Cassandra Okechukwu, Harvard School of Public Health.

An Advisory Committee is closely involved in the Program; it’s members include:

David ChristianiM.D., M.P.H., MS., Professor of Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology, Department of Environmental Health and Epidemiology at Harvard Chan.

Sue GoldieM.D., M.P.H., Professor of Health Decision Science, Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard Chan

Nancy RigottiM.D., Associate Professor, Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Mass General Hospital

Glorian SorensenPh.DM.P.H., Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Chan and Faculty Vice President for Faculty Development at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

There are 37 participating faculty members across multiple Harvard institutions, providing rich breadth of research opportunities for participating fellows.

Types and Numbers of Training Positions Available

The program seeks to train between social and behavioral scientists, who would become leading investigators developing new strategies for primary and secondary prevention of cancer, and physicians who would become clinical investigators in the field of cancer prevention in public health practitioners.

The program will accommodate one physician pursuing a degree, three post-doctoral researchers, and six pre-doctoral positions. The training focuses on three core components: (1) specialized curriculum, (2) other didactic experiences tailored to fellow’s needs and interests, and (3) research experiences.

Specialized Curriculum

An important goal of this training program is to prepare trainees to conduct state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary research in cancer prevention and control. The Specialized Curriculum for the Harvard Cancer Prevention Education Program prepares trainees in this interdisciplinary focus through three components: (1) a core curriculum of two courses required of all fellows (see below); (2) tailored coursework for pre- and post-doctoral fellows, thus customizing the program to the individual trainees based on their specific interests and career goals; and (3) a monthly seminar and workshops. Flexibility in the training program is important because the field of cancer prevention is developing rapidly. Future leaders in this field will come from many different backgrounds and will need to work together in the design and implementation of prevention programs. To prepare for this challenging and diverse work environment, training offers a wide range of opportunity to learn about cancer risks, assessment, intervention, prevention, and evaluation. From the broad spectrum that forms their basic course work, degree candidates will then have the opportunity for more focused research. The area chosen for specialization may complement existing skills and knowledge (e.g. a post-doctoral fellow may take courses in biostatistics or epidemiology) or it may represent a primary focus for pre-doctoral trainees. Because national priority areas for the prevention of cancer will continue to change over time, trainees must be conversant with principles of each component of cancer prevention and be prepared to shift their focus. Our vision in crafting the program reflects the need to have a broad overview of the field of cancer prevention, a shared body of core knowledge for all trainees, and the tools to identify priority opportunities for prevention and control of cancer.

Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum includes two courses required of all fellows:

  • Cancer Prevention (EPI224) or Independent Study: A specially-developed core course offers an introduction to the breadth of cancer prevention. Every trainee is required to take Cancer Prevention or approved Independent Study equivalent, the core-course specifically developed to provide the overview of the entire field of cancer prevention and control. This course was initially designed to parallel the NCI curriculum in cancer prevention. Topics include, genetics and cancer biology, cancer prevention and control methodology, prevention and control of organ specific tumors, exposure assessment, smoking cessation, diet assessment and modification, chemoprevention, biomarkers both to assess risk and determine outcome, cancer surveillance, health promotion, behavior modeling, screening, and community interventions. The syllabus for this course has evolved over the ten years that it has been offered.
  • Responsible Conduct of Research (HPM548): This ethics course is a Harvard Chan requirement for all trainees funded by NIH grants. The course reviews a series of ethical issues that arise in the conduct of research. Topics include financial and non-financial conflict of interest; responsible authorship and publication; peer review; ownership of data and biological samples; grant writing; budgeting and adequate allocation of resources; mentor-mentee relationship and their responsibilities; data acquisition, selection and management; sharing of research results; intellectual property; safe laboratory practice, mistakes and negligence; research misconduct and responding to suspected research/professional misconduct
  • Seminar Series and Workshops

All fellows are required to participate in a monthly seminar series with other trainees in this Program. Trainees present from their own work, thereby providing a breadth of perspectives on cancer prevention. In addition, the seminar series provides career development guidance.

In addition, post-doctoral fellows are required to participate in the DF/HCC Risk Reduction Program workshops. These workshops are offered two to three times per year, and address cutting-edge topics for cancer prevention research. These workshops also provide important opportunities for building interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers across Harvard institutions.

Research Experiences

The Harvard Cancer Prevention Education and Career Development Program aims to prepare independent scientists who can function in complex team settings and highly interdisciplinary team research settings. To complement their classroom training in research and methodology, the Program requires that every trainee participate in ongoing cancer prevention research. The level of involvement differs for pre- and post-doctoral fellows, as described above.

Each fellow works with a primary mentor who has a faculty appointment at Harvard School of Public Health. Additionally, fellows identify one or more secondary mentors, who may be Harvard Chan faculty members or researchers in cancer prevention and control outside Harvard Chan. The mentors work with the fellows to develop individualized training plans that are tailored to the learning objectives and career goals of the individual fellow. It is expected that post-doctoral fellows will participate as members of one or more research teams, with specified research responsibilities. Pre-doctoral fellows place their primary focus on completion of the doctoral degrees; original research is required of all trainees earning doctoral degrees and is supervised by our teaching faculty engaged in ongoing projects.

Priority is given to placing post-doctoral fellows in research settings that: (1) provide a good match with their career interests; (2) provide opportunities to develop research skills in priority areas defined by the fellow and his/her mentors; (3) offer reasonable opportunities for publication of research findings; and (4) assure that fellows are able to develop and present real or “mock” research grant applications. Timing for the development and submission of grant applications is likely to vary. Some fellows will enter the program with a clear vision for the research directions and be ready to prepare a K-award application by the end of their first year, while others will work closely with their mentors to identify research topics that will be developed during their second year into a K-award application or for presentation as a mock grant application. We believe this flexibility and responsiveness to individual fellows’ needs provide strength to the program.

Identification of research opportunities is facilitated by the DF/HCC Population Sciences Programs and in collaboration with the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention. Moreover, the faculty of Harvard Chan and the DF/HCC have extensive networks throughout the Northeast which will facilitate placement of students in a wide variety of research and programmatic activities. In consultation with the Program Leaders and their primary and secondary mentors, trainees will locate research placements most appropriate to their career interests. Research opportunities available to fellows represent the spectrum of intervention efforts ranging from identification and quantification of risk factors to interventions targeted to providers, groups, or populations.  Research projects are available on a range of specific risk factors: smoking, alcohol, diet, genetics, and other aspects of cancer biology (e.g. viral and radiation).