Training Core

Training 472X206

Principal Investigators


Hendrik De Heer, PhD


Margaret Briehl, PhD

Training Program Coordinators


Sheena Hale, MA
Tiffani Begay, BS

Program Overview

Native Americans are the most underrepresented racial/ethnic group among physicians and scientists. According to the CDC, the number one cause of death among Native Americans is cancer. This is in contrast to the majority population for which heart disease is the number one killer. With the large number of tribes in Arizona, the state’s universities are ideally positioned to train a greater number of Native Americans for biomedical careers. It is anticipated that this can be an effective approach to addressing cancer health disparities in Native American communities.

The NACP Training Core provides Native American students with mentoring and research experiences of importance to their own communities to help them achieve their training goals for a career in the health sciences. Activities in which NACP trainees engage include:

  • Summer programs to transition from high school or community college to the university
  • Mentored projects with investigators conducting cancer-related research
  • Summer internships at other institutions
  • Development of an individualized career plan
  • Attendance at national meetings focused on health research in Native American communities
  • Mentoring sessions with Native American researchers as role models
  • A graduate programs primer that provides guidance on applying for post-baccalaureate degree programs.
Evaluation data shows that the NACP Training Core is making an impact. Between 2009 and 2014, the 6-year baccalaureate graduation rate for Native American students in the US was 38%. In contrast, the NACP Native American students had a substantially higher graduation rate of 68%.  NACP began another 5-year project period in September, 2014. The Training Core looks forward to continually increasing the number of Native Americans in biomedical careers, so as to reduce the burden of cancer in their communities. The overall goal of the proposed NACP Training Core is to provide Native American students with mentoring and research experience to help them achieve their individualized career development plans in cancer-related research.

Specific Aims 

  1. Mentor Native American students to succeed in their undergraduate studies and expose them to hands-on research and Native American role models.
  2. Provide activities to successfully transition Native American undergraduate students into advanced degree programs which will train them to address cancer health disparities in their communities.
  3. Mentor NACP junior faculty and provide cultural competency training in partnership with the Outreach Core for all NACP faculty and staff.

NACP Training Core Activities

Build Research Experience

  • NAU-Intro to research- This program aims to support four Native American first and second year college students or first year tribal/community college students with an introduction to the field of cancer-related research with the goal to transition them into a higher level of research.
  • NAU-Research- This program aims to support four students to improve their preparation and training for biomedical and behavioral sciences at the PhD level. This includes continuation of research and exposure to cancer related careers.
  • UA-UBRP- This program allows for UA students to work with NACP investigators and other UA faculty to conduct a research project for 10 weeks. Students also participate in introductory research seminars and other workshops to enhance their research experience. Each year we aim to support six students.
  • Graduate Summer Transitional Enrichment Program (G-STEP)- A summer research program at UA to assist Native American Students with additional experiences to help ensure their transition to advanced degrees and research programs. Each year we propose to support four students.

Exposure to Careers in Cancer Research

  • UA Intro to Oncology Careers for NA- Students are able to enroll in a one-unit course during the fall semester that is led by faculty or graduate students already conducting research relevant to Native Americans or Native American students working in cancer-related areas.
  • Native American Scientist Role Models- To provide Native American cancer research exposure to students within NACP through scientific seminars at UA and NAU. This program also offers the opportunity for students to attend and present at other National research related conferences.
  • Graduate Primer Premier Program (GPP) - A mini conference at the UA to provide students in NACP about UA graduate programs in biomedical and cancer research. This includes faculty and UA staff presenting on a variety of topics from admissions to financial aid as well as students touring laboratories and other related facilities, held in conjunction with the Undergraduate Biology Research Program poster session in January.

Professional Development 

  • Individual Professional Development (IDP) plans created with each student to help in the transition from undergraduate to graduate and professional programs.
  • Mentor NACP junior faculty and provide cultural competency training in partnership with the Outreach Core for all NACP faculty and staff.