April 22, 2024

Cancer Biology graduate student advocates in Washington, D.C., for continued cancer research support

Cancer Biology graduate student Natalie Snider traveled on Feb. 26 to represent WSU and the states of Michigan and Illinois at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Early Career Hill Day.

A Wayne State University graduate student was selected by the American Association for Cancer Research to attend the organization’s Early Career Hill Day for a second year.

As a fourth-year doctoral student in the Cancer Biology Graduate Program at the WSU School of Medicine and Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Natalie Snider knows first-hand the importance of advocating for continued funding of the National Institutes of Health and its National Cancer Institute. That’s why she traveled as part of a team to Washington, D.C. on Feb. 26 to represent WSU and the states of Michigan and Illinois at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Early Career Hill Day for a second time.

Natalie Snider met with the offices of several elected officials from Michigan.

Snider’s participation is a prime example of WSU’s Prosperity Agenda, in which students are given opportunities to “learn by doing,” in turn cultivating the competencies that prepare students like Snider and other future graduates for successful careers. The Grosse Ile native is mentored by Associate Professor of Oncology Kristen Purrington, M.P.H., Ph.D., whose research focuses on the impact of tumor biology and microenvironment on racial disparities in clinical outcomes for African Americans with cancer.

“It is an honor to represent Wayne State at the national level. I am extremely proud to highlight the scientific achievements of the university, many of which have been supported through NIH funding,” Snider said. “By showing Congress members how NIH funding directly supports WSU’s research advancements as well as comprehensive training for the next generation of scientists like me, we can garner their support for these critically important NIH budget increases.”

The annual event brings early career scientists, including doctoral candidates, post-doctoral researchers, medical residents, medical fellows and some early-stage assistant professors, to Washington to advocate for robust, sustained and predictable funding for cancer research and biomedical science, on behalf of early-career cancer researchers.

From left, Sen. Peters’ staff member Victoria Houston, Case Western University’s Bianca Islam, M.D., Ph.D., University of Illinois Chicago’s Leslie Carnahan, Ph.D., and WSU's Natalie Snider discuss T32s and other funding for trainees.

In meetings with the offices of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, Snider and the team advocated for the highest possible increase to the NIH base budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We asked for $51 billion for the NIH as well as $9.988 billion for the NCI. These amounts are calculated using the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index, which accounts for how much NIH expenditures need to increase each year to maintain NIH-funded research activity at the previous year’s level,” Snider said.

Participants stress the importance of investing in the future of cancer research and provide their own personal perspectives as the investigators whose careers may be most impacted by the support of this essential funding. Participants receive support from AACR staff and are accompanied by one or more established investigators with significant advocacy experience.

“While this is not directly related to the content of my thesis work, NIH funding affects nearly all graduate students and their ability to conduct their thesis work by supporting their research and training. Support from the NIH is what helps us to complete our doctoral studies and become independent scientists,” Snider added.

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