Rena Pasick: Changing the Face of Population Science & Public Health

Rena Pasick (center in green) poses with trainees in the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research.

When Rena Pasick joined UCSF in 2002, she brought a key program: the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research (MTPCCR) with sites here and at UCLA. With funding from a National Cancer Institute training grant through 2018, her program encourages and supports underrepresented master’s level students in public health and social and behavioral sciences on to the doctorate and careers in research.
Rena has seen the impact of her program on its alumni: 

  • 20 percent of MTPCCR Summer Institute students enroll in doctoral programs
  • 40 percent of MTPCCR students who intern enroll in doctoral programs
  • 94 doctoral graduates to date
  • 97 current doctoral students
  • 13 alumni enrolled in UCSF doctoral programs 
  • 2 alumni as current UCSF faculty

Rena is proud to say, “over 80 percent of our alumni have told us MTPCCR strongly affected their career path. It’s wonderful to make that kind of impact, particularly among students who are accustomed to feeling marginalized.”   
Rena is quick to credit the researchers who serve as role models. The fact that they come from backgrounds that are similar to those of the participants sends a strong message that the students can and must pursue leadership roles.  
With her awareness of the public health landscape, she wonders, “Why is federal funding for pipeline diversity concentrated in basic science disciplines?  In other words, why is diversity in the lab more important than diversity in the community and policy arenas – where most health disparity challenges must be addressed?”

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