AACR Early-career Hill Day
The AACR Early-career Hill Day is an annual event that brings a group of AACR Associate members to Washington, D.C., to advocate for robust, sustained and predictable funding for cancer research and biomedical science through the NIH and the NCI, on behalf of early-career cancer researchers. Over the course of more than 30 congressional visits during a single day, participants are able to stress how important it is to invest in the future of cancer research and provide their own personal perspectives as the investigators whose careers may be most impacted by the support of this essential funding. Accompanying them in a mentoring capacity is an established investigator from the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee. This event is an important opportunity for the AACR’s Associate members to engage in advocacy at the federal level and educate lawmakers on the progress and promise in cancer research.
In addition to receiving advocacy training in advance of the event, all participants will have the opportunity to hear from a NCI/NIH representative and a member of Congress, and/or his/her legislative staff, about the current state of biomedical research funding within the United States. On the day of the Hill visits, participants will be divided into groups to meet face-to-face with senators and house representatives and/or their key staff member(s). Each group will attend four or five meetings on both sides of Capitol Hill, throughout the event. During each meeting, participants will have the opportunity to share firsthand stories about the impact of cancer research funding on their career and how cancer may have personally touched their life or that of a loved one. #AACRontheHill
National Day of Action
And, while there is always a limited number of spaces to attend the AACR Early-career Hill day in-person, there is still an opportunity for people to get involved from anywhere within the United States at the same time that the participants are on Capitol Hill. The AACR encourages all investigators to join in a day-wide movement, the National Day of Action, to reinforce the messages of their colleagues on the Hill by contacting their congressional representatives and senators to urge congressional leaders to support robust, sustained and predictable funding increases for the National Institutes of Health. It only takes a few minutes to send an email and/or call your congressional representative and senators, and your voice can greatly help advance and ensure maximum impact of our message to Congress! Learn More.
- Cancer Research Catalyst Blog
- Legislative Action Center
- Sign up to receive the Cancer Policy Monitor
- Additional Opportunities for Early-career Cancer Researchers
AACR Early-career Hill Day Participants
Dr. Cheng is a PhD student in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health. Motivated by improving the impact of cancer control and population science, he is dedicated to promoting the adoption and integration of cancer research findings into everyday practice and public health settings to improve the health and health care of the population. His current research is focusing on investigating the long-term outcomes of major cancers among men and women in the United States, and how to improve their survivals via different clinical and lifestyle interventions.
Dr. Cottrell received his PhD in molecular cell biology from Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). His dissertation research focused on regulation of gene expression by microRNAs and RNA binding proteins. He is currently a NIH/NIGMS Ruth Kirschstein F32 Postdoctoral Fellow at WUSTL studying post-transcriptional regulation in cancer.
Emanuela Dylgjeri is an associate member of the AACR and a doctoral candidate at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. Her research investigates novel roles of a highly expressed protein in late stage prostate cancer and identifying potential therapeutics that can be used in this fatal stage of the disease. After completion of her doctorate, Emanuela aspires to work closely with both translational researchers and physicians in order to promote changes in science policy that will bridge the gap between the laboratory, clinic and the patients.
Dr. Henderson is a cancer biologist and health-promotion advocate. He earned his PhD in integrative biosciences from Tuskegee University. He is currently an NIH/NCI T32-funded postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Christine Lovly, MD, PhD, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His research focuses on understanding non-small cell lung cancer and improving therapeutic strategies targeting oncogenic mutations in Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase domain. Dr. Henderson’s long-term goal is to strengthen scientific literacy of non-scientists by serving as a liaison between scientists, medical professionals, and the public.
Bianca Islam, MD, PhD, is a resident physician scientist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center/Case Western Reserve University. Cancers of the colon and rectum (CRC) are some of the most commonly diagnosed and are responsible for 9% of all cancer deaths due to the late stage of diagnosis where treatments are largely ineffective.
Dr. Islam’s primary research interests are in colorectal cancer prevention and the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases. After internal medicine residency, she will be starting a clinical and research fellowship in gastroenterology focused on how colorectal cancers are impacted by longstanding inflammatory processes and the gut microbiome.
Robert (Bob) T. Jones is a student in the University of Colorado’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), where he is currently a PhD candidate in the pharmacology graduate program. His research is focused on understanding the genetic determinants of sensitivity and resistance to chemotherapy in bladder cancer. Bob is the current chair of the AACR Associate Member Council and enjoys working with the AACR and advocating for early-career cancer researchers in this role. In the future, he plans to pursue a career as an academic oncologist with an active research lab.
Sunil K. Joshi was born and raised in Northern California. Currently, he is a student in Oregon Health & Science University’s Medical Scientist Training Program and is pursuing his thesis research in Dr. Brian J. Druker’s laboratory with Drs. Cristina E. Tognon and Elie Traer serving as co-mentors. His research is focused on characterizing transforming mutations that potentially drive hematologic neoplasms and examining the role of the bone marrow microenvironment in the relapse of leukemia. Ultimately, Sunil is passionate about empowering and advocating for patients from underserved and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities through clinical practice, scientific research, and education.
Mr. Lawrence is a presidential doctoral fellow and doctoral candidate at the University at Albany. His research is devoted chiefly, but not exclusively, in the field of cancer epidemiology with an emphasis on minority and medically underserved populations. Throughout his graduate education, Mr. Lawrence’s research integrated epidemiological, biological, environmental, and behavioral approaches to better understand cancer disparities across the continuum of care. Currently, he is a graduate research assistant at New York State Department Health utilizing a Cancer Registry-Medicaid linkage to investigate potential risk factors that contribute to disparities in breast cancer survival in New York State.
Russell J. Ledet hails from Lake Charles, Louisiana. After serving in the U.S. Navy as a cryptologic intelligence specialist for more than nine years, he attended Southern University and A&M College for his undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry. Afterwards, he went on to complete his PhD in molecular oncology at New York University. His thesis work focused on utilizing cutting-edge proteomic technology to identify dysregulated protein modifications in treatment-resistant prostate cancer. He is currently a second-year MD-MBA student at Tulane University School of Medicine and A.B. Freeman School of Business. Dr. Ledet has been married to Mallory Brown-Ledet for nearly 14 years, and have two daughters, Maleah Ann and Mahlina Abri.
Dr. Mallen is in her last year of gynecologic oncology fellowship (seven years of training after medical school). She will be providing comprehensive care to women with gynecologic cancers including surgery and chemotherapy. Dr. Mallen is from North Dakota which currently has no gynecologic oncologists and she is passionate about access to cancer care for patients. Dr. Mallen also has a strong research interest in ovarian cancer and was able to spend a dedicated year of research as part of her fellowship training in a basic science lab at Moffitt Cancer Center. Advancement of oncology through research is paramount to high-quality patient care.
Nita Mukand is a fourth-year student in the PharmD/MBA program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on sociodemographic and racial/ethnic disparities in the incidence of second gynecologic and breast cancers. Ms. Mukand aims to identify risk factors for these second cancers to increase targeted surveillance in medically underserved populations. She will begin an MPH in fall 2020 and plans to pursue a PhD in epidemiology.
Mr. Navarro-Serer is a PhD candidate in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His current research focuses on determining the molecular mechanisms of invasion in pancreatic cancer. In the future, he plans to pursue a career in science policy, with a special interest in health-in-all policies as well as issues regarding emerging genetic technologies. He is passionate about science communication and finding better ways to include the public in the science field.
Loryn Phillips graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in biotechnology. She interned with NASA at Stennis Space Center and is the president of Christian Women in Science, an affiliate of American Scientific Association. Loryn has worked primarily as a laboratory technician at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in the lung cancer department. Her work has involved studying health effects of tobacco products and NIH funded grants. Currently, Loryn is working on her masters at University of New Mexico. Her research is focusing on potential biomarkers in lung cancer.
Jake Schillo is currently pursuing a PhD in genetics at the University of Iowa under the mentorship of Dr. Adam Dupuy. He previously served as a nuclear weapons specialist in the US Air Force before beginning his cancer research career at Minot State University, where he studied the role of topoisomerase inhibitor chemotherapies in the development of secondary leukemias. Jake’s current research focuses on understanding mechanisms by which cancer cells develop resistance to targeted therapies. Through collaboration with clinicians at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, Jake works to translate his research findings into clinical interventions aimed at improving patient care.
Ms. Swain is a MD/PhD student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Scientist Training Program. Before starting the program, she spent a year studying the role of exosomes in B cell impairment within the tumor microenvironment of lung cancer. During her training, she is looking to pursue research training in cancer immunology. After completing the MD/PhD program, she hopes to pursue a career in cancer care and research as a physician-scientist.
Melody Tan is a PhD candidate in bioengineering at Rice University, where her research focuses on using optical imaging to improve the diagnosis of oral cancer. She interns at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, where she has written about vaccine policy and started initiatives equipping students to engage with legislators. Melody received her BS in bioengineering and Global Health Technologies from Rice University, her MSE in bioengineering Innovation and Design from Johns Hopkins University, and is an alumna of the Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellowship at the National Academies, where she worked with the National Cancer Policy Forum.
Reflection from Past Participants
“This event was a tremendous occasion as it trained me and my fellow early-career bench scientists in how to take our story and message to Capitol Hill. As a biomedical scientist, I have been trained in the responsibilities in the laboratory. But I also see the great value in being a ‘civic’ scientist. Each and every one of us has a part to play in bridging the gap between science and society.” – Lee D. Gibbs, BS
This year’s AACR Early-career Hill Day was a valuable learning experience for me. I gained unique insight into the legislative environment that directly influences funding for biomedical research, and realized that fostering dialogue between young scientists and policy makers is highly important. Through my meetings with congressional offices, I was encouraged to learn that legislators are aware and concerned about the exceptionally competitive funding situation being faced by researchers, and are working towards alleviating this problem by increasing the NIH budget.” – Jennifer C. Shing, PhD
“My driving passion is in making an impact on cancer and I can now appreciate that science policy and legislation is a powerful avenue to do that.” – Eric C. Woolf, MS
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