Resources to support degree programs for pre-doctoral trainees and mentored opportunities for post-doctoral trainees across the spectrum of cancer outcomes research are urgently needed.
There are few cancer researchers with both the necessary cancer research skills and the local experience to develop cancer outcomes solutions adapted to the Malawian context. To date, only two Malawian investigators have successfully competed for cancer-specific research funding at the early career or independent investigator level. The reasons for this include:
(1) excessive clinical, administrative, and program responsibilities
(2) lack of scientific mentorship
(3) limited access to pilot funding to pursue independent lines of inquiry
(4) few opportunities to gain specific research skills including advanced degrees where required
Given the current extensive clinical responsibilities for clinician-scientists, protected time for academic advancement in cancer research is extremely rare. The entire country of Malawi has only three clinical oncologists, one medical oncologist, one pediatric oncologist, and two pathologists, and essentially no cancer treatment available in the private sector. Likewise, though there are PhD post-doctoral researchers interested in cancer research, opportunities for post-doctoral research and for academic advancement are minimal. Though the UNC Project-Malawi Cancer Program has gained traction in lymphoma, cervical cancer, and breast cancer research output, the next generation of cancer investigators necessary to catalyze cancer outcomes research is lacking.
Malawi Cancer Research Outcomes Program (M-CORP)
This D43 training program aims to synergistically expand the global cancer research workforce via:
- Supporting four junior Malawian cancer researchers in earning graduate degrees who will then obtain faculty positions in-country (2 PhD and 2 Master’s in Medicine (MMed)).
- Overcoming obstacles to research independence by providing 25 long-term and seven short-term post-doctoral training opportunities including mentored research pilot grants (20), 12-month research fellowships in Malawi (5), and one- to two-month mini-sabbaticals for Malawian nationals to train at UNC.
- Providing foundational training for cancer-care health professionals affiliated with program partners by establishing a robust curriculum and training opportunities across the continuum of cancer outcomes research specific to the Malawian environment and research priorities (cancer symposia, individualized/tailored short courses and workshops).
The Cancer Care Quality Training Program (CCQTP)
Malawi HIV Implementation Research Scientist Training Program (MHIRST)