CURE Celebrates 20 Years of Education, Excellence and Workforce Equity

Published 08/18/2022

Please join the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center's CURE program as it celebrates 20 years of Education, Excellence and Workforce Equity. The Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program, which started with five high school students, has drastically expanded and it's now comprised of three distinct programs: CURE Summer Only, YES for CURE, and SPARC. The goal of the CURE Program since its inception in the summer of 2002, has been to expose underrepresented minorities to cancer research by placing students in different research lab environments at Harvard affiliated institutions.

The CURE Program among other programs has played an integral part in creating space for high school and undergraduate students in cancer research. Bradley C. Carthon, MD, PhD — who originally served as a CURE Program Coordinator back in 2002, and who is now an Interim Director, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University — recalls the time the CURE program had just started, and he reviewed student applications to CURE, and realized how talented and young the students were. He recalls that they started with five students, largely from the Boston area, and the program was modeled after other programs that he had done.

"So the good thing about Boston is that there are a lot of different programs. There were programs at the Division of Medical Sciences, there were programs through the School of Public Health, etc. And so over the summer, the environment became pretty rich with folks coming and going, and you would meet folks, particularly with underrepresented students from various places," Dr. Carthon said. "And so I recall spending the summers at the SHURP [Summer Honors Undergraduate Research] program, which was run by the late Dr. Jocelyn Spragg. She and I were very close, and she also worked closely with Dr. Harold Amos. They're both deceased now, but were very much vested in minorities and research. And so, a lot of what was done with the original CURE program was modeled over some of those summer programs," Dr. Carthon continued. 

He also talked about his efforts to try to bring a bit of familiarity and a comfort zone to students in the first year of the Program. “What I mean by that is, a lot of times when students come into the lab, this might be their first time in a hardcore research environment and there are these unwritten rules," he described. Dr. Carthon believed that it was helpful to let the students know that this is what a lab meeting is going to be like; this is how you carry yourself when you present your data; this is what you might want to pick out of those papers that they gave you, and "really trying to teach them some basic things so that they could grasp the lab environment, get a handle on their project, and understand why they were doing certain things." 

Today, there are over 600 CURE alumni across a diverse range of STEM, business, and arts careers. According to IECD Deputy Associate Director Karen Burn White, CURE alumni are a "crucial part of the Program’s success." She says, "we would not be able to celebrate 20 years of success and excellence without their dedication, dreams and ambitions.” In celebration of 20 years of Education, Excellence and Workforce Equity the DF/HCC IECD website has featured alumni since September 2021.