Making Cancer History® : A Moon Shot for the Next Generation of Physicians and Scientists

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By Zak Rajput, medical student, MD Anderson Summer Research Program

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...

It was nearly 50 years ago that President John F. Kennedy, speaking at nearby Rice Stadium, delivered this historic speech. In it, Kennedy framed the challenge of reaching the moon as a test of the human spirit. Today, his words are as applicable as ever, as we undertake one of the greatest challenges of our generation: the campaign to Make Cancer History. And, echoing the sentiments of his statement, the next wave of future researchers, physicians, and health care professionals are heeding the call to action by investing their time and efforts in cancer research.

Every summer, MD Anderson hosts students ranging from high school through medical school, providing them with firsthand biomedical research experience in the basic or clinical sciences as it relates to cancer.

The majority of this time is spent doing actual hands-on work, ranging from in DNA and protein studies to statistical analysis of chemotherapy outcomes in patients. These experiences provide students with a clear knowledge of what it means to be a biomedical researcher, as well as an understanding of the discipline required.

As a second-year medical student, I had the opportunity to work in the Department of Urologic Oncology last summer, investigating the surgical outcomes of patients with upper urinary tract cancer. I was joined by students from across the country, each with his or her own unique interest in various specialties of cancer medicine.

As a result of our work, many of us have published journal articles and presented our findings at national conferences. Most importantly, by having the opportunity to make a small contribution to the body of cancer science early in our careers, we are more prepared and more motivated than ever to face the unknown challenges in cancer prevention and treatment that await us and our future patients.

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