This education program was originally funded through a Request for Applications, which aimed to establish Education Programs in Cancer Prevention and Control (RFA CA 91-20). Specifically, the RFA sought programs that combined multidisciplinary curricula with ongoing prevention research so that trainees would “gain experiences ranging from research on innovative hypothesis testing and the impact of interventions on defined populations to the broad, systematic application of the research results.” This mechanism provided funds to establish the Harvard Cancer Prevention Education Program, which built on the existing expertise in cancer prevention and control activities within the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), and the Harvard medical community.
During the first fourteen years, the Harvard Cancer Prevention Education Program funded 79 slots, including 39 pre-doctoral fellows, 15 physicians earning degrees, 7 physicians in post-doctoral research fellowships, and 18 non-MD post-doctoral fellows. Although the Program did not previously focus exclusively on developing trainees for research careers, the majority of fellows completing the Program have taken research positions, primarily in academic settings. The curriculum and related seminars are now well-established, and the structure for mentored research experiences has been tested and refined. With the reputation of the program growing, an increasing number of qualified pre- and post-doctoral applicants apply for the program. The track record of a strong applicant pool, well-established training, and effective placement of health professionals from diverse backgrounds related to cancer prevention provides sound evidence for the ongoing potential of this program to create a cadre of leaders in cancer prevention and control.