The Future of Cancer Research

 Cure Group
2010 CURE Participants
(from left to right) Juan Ugarte, Monique Gemechu, Elena De Jesus Hernandez and Francisca Machic-Riscajche

When her mother died of cancer four years ago, Elena De Jesus Hernandez made up her mind: She was going to go into medicine.

Already a top student at Hillsboro’s Liberty High School and selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar, in the summer of 2010, Elena took another step toward her future career: She participated, for the second year, in a research program at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. The Ted R. Lilley Cancer Continuing Umbrella of Research Education (CURE) Project gives students an opportunity to gain hands-on biomedical research experience.

Through CURE, Elena worked with researchers on cancer cells and why illness causes fatigue. Her mentor at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute was Daniel L. Marks, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Marks is a pediatric endocrinologist at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute and is director of the Oregon Child Health Research Center.

Elena will attend George Fox University in the fall of 2010. Her involvement with CURE has exposed her to more career options in healthcare and science: “It’s increased my interest in research,” she says. She’s worked with other students in CURE, including:

  • Juan Ugarte, attending the University of Oregon; he worked with Grover Bagby, M.D., a professor in the departments of Medicine and Molecular & Medical Genetics.
  • Francisca Machic-Riscajche, attending George Fox University; she worked with Ann Hill, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology.
  • Monique Gemechu, a senior at Madison High School;  she worked with Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, and James Tanyi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Medicine.

The students were mentored by one of their own: Abdusebur Muse Jemal, a research assistant at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. He participated in the first class of the CURE program before earning a bachelor’s degree in human biology at Stanford University and a master’s degree in public health from Yale University.  He will be applying to medical school in the fall of 2010. “CURE helped me see how work in a lab can change someone’s life,” he says.

CURE is made possible by philanthropic support and is supported by the Center for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.