Encouraging College and High School Students to Care for the Underserved


CUPID (Cancer in the Under-Privileged Indigent or Disadvantaged) is a unique, laboratory-based summer fellowship program that exposes medical students to the problem of health disparities to promote interest in caring for underserved cancer patients. Kimmel Cancer Center experts mentor students throughout the seven-week program which includes laboratory-based research; a lecture series covering a variety of cancer research and treatment topics; clinician shadowing in medical, surgical and radiation oncology clinics; and a visit to the National Cancer Institute to meet researchers addressing health care disparities on a national level.

Six students from medical schools studying in Georgia, Washington, D.C., New York and Puerto Rico participated in this year’s program and presented their research projects at a certificate ceremony hosted by Kimmel Cancer Center CUPID program directors Fred Bunz and Sushant Kachhap, who also mentored students.

Projects included novel research studies of combined immune and epigenetic therapies for advanced breast cancer, prostate cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, DNA repair and responses to radiation treatment.

MERIT Health Leadership Academy

MERIT Health Leadership Academy is a program that provides longitudinal support and opportunities to Baltimore City students interested in health careers. Its mission is to eliminate health care disparities by transforming underrepresented high school students into health care leaders. MERIT was started by two Johns Hopkins medical students in 2011.

From 10th through 12th grades, MERIT Scholars receive intensive college and career mentoring; academic enrichment classes during the school year; internships in hospitals, clinics and research laboratories over the summer; and academic classes every Saturday during the school year. These experiences expose the scholars to health and science careers while equipping them with the skills and support to obtain them. Through partnerships with the Johns Hopkins University schools of medicine and nursing, MERIT has been able to grow to serve over 200 scholars this year.

“MERIT has an admirable goal and does a really good job of executing it,” says Ian Waters, a graduate student conducting breast cancer research in the Kimmel Cancer Center and a MERIT mentor. “They find and support students from underserved communities who are also passionate about serving underserved communities.”

Shatera, one of the scholars Waters mentored throughout high school, recently graduated and is now on an honors scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill. Shatera plans to pursue a career in public health research focused on health disparities. Waters also hosts students in the laboratory over the summer to introduce them to cancer research.

“A lot of these kids are motivated and incredible students, but they don’t know a lot of people who are involved in science and health care,” says Waters. “The students are the driving force, but MERIT provides them with tools they need.” Each summer, MERIT scholars are recognized at the Johns Hopkins C.A.R.E.S. (Career Academic and Research Experience for Students) Summer Symposium.