Taylor Barrow is taking a break from her second-year studies at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, but the reason for her temporary absence is a worthy one. The Class of 2025 medical student was one of only two people in the country accepted to the Section of Medical Oncology at Yale Cancer Center’s newly-launched Diversity Enhancement Program in Oncology.
The program provides two underrepresented in medicine students or residents exposure to hematology/medical oncology as a career, faculty-mentored clinical experience in oncology, as well as with a corresponding clinical or translational research project. She will start the eight-week supplemental fellowship in late September.
“I am very interested in how the environment, particularly cities like Detroit and even New Haven, affects cancer rates, times of diagnosis and health outcomes in Black residents. I began my application by sharing a bit about my family history, how my grandparents, those living and those I never got to meet, all lifelong Detroiters, have some relation with cancer,” Barrow said. “Like many Detroiters, my legacy begins with the great migration to escape the Jim Crow south, relocate and find community in this city. Many infrastructure changes, racism and environmental wrongdoings plagued my ancestors, yet they endured. How does the field of oncology and cancer relate to this history? What caused their bodies to react this way? What new things can I learn within the area to better help me understand my legacy? This, and I am sure many other lessons, await me in New Haven.”
Barrow discovered the Yale program through her involvement at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, specifically its Health Equity Book Club.
“I frequently sat on their panel to discuss various books about intersectional bias in race and health care. Together, we would reflect on our own experiences in life and with patients, and aim to figure out how we could be better past, present and future providers,” she said. “More than that, however, the folks at Karmanos, who were excellent mentors and confidants, presented me with this opportunity. They even offered to send a letter from officials at Karmanos vouching for my application. Without their support, specifically Drs. Michelle Cote, Danny Inman, Ann Schwartz and Michael Simon, I would not have had this chance.”
(Learn more about the book club at https://www.karmanos.org/karmanos/health-equity-book-club).
Once in New Haven, Barrow will receive mentorship from Medical Oncology-Hematology T32 fellows.
“I am honored to get the chance to have more mentors and be in a new environment like Yale. However, I am also an eastsider of Detroit, born and raised, and a Black woman. I am excited to bring my perspective, history and Detroit to the table,” Barrow said. “The whole reason I got into medicine is to serve the people of my community, and opportunities like this, with its resources and connections, are what Detroiters deserve. The folks at Yale have already been so kind and informative, and I look forward to continuing to grow relationships there and bring what I have learned back home.”
The Diversity Enhancement Program in Oncology is a new opportunity for students considered underrepresented in medicine, said Roy Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director for Clinical Affairs and chief of Medical Oncology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, and assistant dean for Translational Research at Yale School of Medicine.
“Our inaugural class will gain an impactful oncology experience throughout their eight-week rotation, with mentoring from our outstanding faculty and fellows. We’re thrilled to offer this program and to be able to add to the many talented physician-scientists we have here at Yale,” he said.
Expenses, including living, transportation and research, are paid for by the program, up to $5,000 per student.
“Honestly, I will be a sponge within those two months, taking in everything clinical, social, environmental and more,” she said.
The visit is not her first time in Connecticut. She worked as an organizer and within the non-profit sector for several years in New Haven and Bridgeport. “The folks there remind me so much of Detroit — and honestly helped me find my voice within activism, especially the lessons I learned from Bridgeport Generation Now, CT-Core, Skateport, Caroline House, Green Village Initiative and many others. I am excited to re-connect with that community. Though I have not spent much time at Yale, I am also happy to have a new perspective on the city,” she added.