Cancer Center Awards Mini-Grants in Support of Diversity, Professional Development

By Erin Hayes | November 15, 2023

illustration of diverse faces

The Cancer Center’s Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) recently awarded 20 mini-grants to support career development activities for faculty, staff, and trainees across the UCSF cancer community. Made available to women, minorities, and persons with disabilities – populations underrepresented in the scientific workforce – the mini-grants provide up to $3,000 per recipient for conference travel, administrative support, or professional development.

“The DEIA Mini-Grant program aims to give trainees and staff the resources needed to advance their careers, regardless of whether their managers have the funds available.”

- Robbie Díaz, PhD, program manager for the HDFCCC Office of DEIA

Launched in 2022 by the newly minted HDFCCC Office of DEIA, the mini-grants were initially established to subsidize administrative fees, such as manuscript publication fees and software subscriptions, for Cancer Center faculty from underrepresented backgrounds. In 2023, the program expanded to cover professional development and conference travel for a wider variety of roles within the UCSF cancer community.

Featured Awardee: Samrawit Agezew

Samrawit Agezew, a medical student and global cancer researcher, received a DEIA Mini-Grant to attend the 2023 African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) conference, held on Nov 2-6 in Senegal. Agezew attended the conference to present on NCCN guidelines for breast cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa – research done with faculty mentor Geoffrey Buckle, MD – as well as to network with colleagues.

“Since I am interested in building a career in global health, particularly to do work in in Sub-Saharan Africa, attending the conference allowed me to connect with oncologists and researchers from different Sub-Saharan African countries and learn about all the great work they are doing,” said Agezew. “The funds from the DEIA Mini-Grant were crucial in making it possible for me to attend the conference by covering travel expenses, which would have been a barrier due to the high cost of international travel.”

Featured Awardee: Kelsey Natsuhara

Kelsey Natsuhara, MD, a clinical fellow and health disparities researcher, received a DEIA Mini-Grant to attend the upcoming 2023 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Natsuhara aims to become a health services researcher focused on improving access to high-quality cancer care, and she considers networking important to her career development.

“The San Antonio Breast Cancer Conference provides a chance for me to network specifically with other breast cancer disparities researchers and learn about ongoing work in this space,” stated Natsuhara. “In the era of telehealth where mentorship can happen across the country, these in-person meetings are even more critical to make connections that can lead to long-term mentorship and research collaborations.”

Featured Awardee: Rachel Sabol

Rachel Sabol, MD, PhD, a clinical resident in the department of Radiation Oncology, received a DEIA Mini-Grant in support of a course on Career Advancement and Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare.

“I am so appreciative of the opportunity this mini-grant provided,” said Sabol. “[The course] was data-driven with practical toolkits that included strategies for implementing the key principles. I certainly will use the skills taught, not only for myself as I continue to grow as a leader and clinician, but also to bring some of the ideas to my residency program and department to implement these tools to a broader cohort within the Cancer Center.”

Featured Awardee: Ashley Bolden

Ashley Bolden, a staff protocol development and regulatory specialist within the Cancer Center, received a DEIA Mini-Grant to attend an upcoming conference on the FDA’s clinical trial requirements.

“Attending this conference will contribute significantly to my professional development by providing me with insights into the most recent regulatory developments, fostering networking opportunities with experts in the field, and ultimately equipping me with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in my role at UCSF,” said Bolden.

Of the DEIA Mini-Grants distributed in 2023, the majority were awarded in support of conference travel. Robbie Díaz, PhD, program manager for the HDFCCC Office of DEIA, explained that travel funds are a particular pain point for UCSF trainees who wish to present their research at conferences. (The HDFCCC Office of Education and Training already offers travel grants for postdocs to address this issue; Díaz hopes the DEIA Mini-Grants will help meet the demand for students and staff.)

“Trainees often have to ask their principal investigators (PIs) for funds to support conference travel or professional development, and there are many reasons why the PI might say no, such as lack of funds or spending restrictions,” said Díaz. “The DEIA Mini-Grant program aims to give trainees and staff the resources needed to advance their careers, regardless of whether their managers have the funds available.”

View the full list of DEIA Mini-Grant recipients.