The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) Academy has been nominated for Coro’s Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award in the Distinguished Organizational Leadership category. The winner of that award and others will be announced Jan. 23 at the Coro event, which celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s values-based leadership and honors leaders and organizations in the Pittsburgh region that lead from their values in the service of building a more inclusive democracy.
The UPCI Academy encourages students who are interested in cancer careers, instilling knowledge of cancer biology and clinical care, and developing their research and communication skills. The program offers 60 scholars, mainly rising local high school seniors, with eight weeks of research-focused educational and experimental learning at seven locations. Scholars work on their own research project in a research mentor’s laboratory and, at the end of the program, present their project as an oral presentation and poster session. The program includes universal exposure to issues including patients’ rights and privileges, health equity disparities and appropriate research conduct.
Pranav Murthy, a senior at North Allegheny High School who participated in the Academy in 2014, spoke about his experience at an open house earlier this month.
“You see, for me, and hundreds of other previous scholars, the UPCI Academy has been a life-changing experience,” he said. “This truly hands-on research experience taught me the importance of research and collaboration in the medical field and has surely cemented my dreams to pursue a career in the biomedical sciences.”
Murthy’s positive experience is the norm, said Michael Lotze, M.D., UPCI International Academy Program director.
“Graduates of the program and their parents and counselors have uniformly praised their experience, enabling them to gain access to superior college programs and increasing their fund of knowledge and ability to approach science as a ‘performing art,’” he said.
Applications for the 2015 Academy are being accepted through March 16. Scholars are selected based on academic prowess, status as an underrepresented minority or disadvantaged student and promotion of the strategic partnerships of UPCI.