Evening of Hope: A Trajectory

By Rosemary Nabukeera | DF/HCC Communications

 

On April 25 of this year, two CURE program and Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP) students, Alexander Jeremiah and Senait Efrem, were awarded the 2019-2020 HOPE Scholarships. Efrem and Jeremiah — alumni of the 2-Year Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program at the Dana-Farber / Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) — were two of three recipients to receive HOPE scholarships at the 22nd annual Evening of Hope which was held at The Westin Copley Place in Boston.

This year, recipients were awarded HOPE Scholarships of $7,500 paid out over two years —$5,000 for year one and $2,500 for year two. According to BSCP’s Executive Director Hollie DeSilva, Evening of Hope is BSCP’s sole fundraiser, and it was created in 1998 to make it possible “to offer all BSCP programs at no cost to the participants.”

BSCP’s mission is to provide “students of every race, ethnic background, gender and financial status with encouragement, support and guidance needed for the successful pursuit of biomedical science and other science-related careers.” For example, Senait Efrem, one of the HOPE Scholarship recipients, was born in Uganda and she is a first-generation college student who’s currently a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The 2019 Evening of Hope booklet mentions that Efrem is currently majoring in biology and computer science with pre-med courses, and she “plans on pursuing an MD/PhD degree with the goal of conducting research that inspires change in health policy and medical practice.”

Alexander Jeremiah, another scholarship recipient, mentions that he comes from a “family of sugar cane farmers, milkmen, and MBTA bus drives.” Jeremiah says: “CURE was the catalyst to my journey into the biomedical field...the key to unlock a world I had long dreamed about.”

The CURE program introduces Massachusetts high school and college students from underrepresented populations to the world of cancer research by placing them in real research settings at local cancer research institutions. For example, Jeremiah explains that before CURE, he had no idea about the scope of the biomedical field and all the possibilities he could explore. But after working in a wet lab alongside Karen Cichowski, PhD at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Jeremiah says that he learned how to run a western blot, culture cells, perform protein assays, and write research manuscripts. 

Now a first-year medical student at NYU School of Medicine, Jeremiah still recalls the afternoons he spent with Dr. Cichowski looking through literature and brainstorming experiments.

“It was through our discussions,” Jeremiah says “that I really learned how to identify a problem, think critically of how to investigate it further, and also connect it to the broader literature.”

He says his time at CURE "served as the building block" from which his "education stemmed." 

Karen Burns White, the Deputy Associate Director for DF/HCC's Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities (IECD), says that the CURE program endeavors to expose and engage students to real research settings. Karen likened the Program to helping students to plant seeds and setting the stage for what's next.