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How A New Initiative is Encouraging Women to Pursue Cancer-Related Careers

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Tszching (Ching) Zhong, a Philadelphia high school student, has already lost multiple loved ones to cancer. While still young, she’s already planning how she can help fewer patients suffer from the disease in the future.

“Throughout my life, I have watched those close to me struggle facing the disease,” Zhong says. “Ten years from now, I hope I am working in a hospital asa physician associate under the pediatric specialty, in addition to being behind the scenes as a healthcare administrator.”

Zhong is one of 25 female students who participated in the American Can­cer Society’s two-week, oncology-focused Summer Health Experience-or SHE ­at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania in July. The free program exposed young people, especially from those underrepresented in the biosciences, to cancer-related careers such as clinical care, research and community engagement.

Philadelphia is one of only five cities to host the new SHE program funded by the American Cancer Society’s ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer campaign, which funds women in can­cer research. Women make invaluable contributions to cancer research, yet they’re consistently underrepresented in leadership positions. The ResearcHERS campaign wants to change that.

“The potential impact of the SHE program on increasing participation and educating underrepresented secondary school students in the city of Philadel­phia cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Donita C. Brady, associate professor of cancer biology and vice chair for inclu­sion and equity in Cancer Biology at Abramson Cancer Center of the Univer­sity of Pennsylvania. “Chief among the priorities of the cancer research commu­nity at Penn is engagement and outreach in our local community by providing exposure to cancer research for high school students in Philadelphia.”

Students experienced lectures and hands-on activities covering a wide range of cancer topics and leadership development; heard from women who are experts in the oncology field, and produced a team project that they presented to SHE mentors. The young women-who hail from seven Philadel­phia city high schools and include rising juniors, seniors and 2021 high school graduates-will also receive ongoing support in building a professional net­work and preparing for college.