Vision: For the CRI PG Group to become a sustainable, student-led, peer-to-peer mentorship programme designed to support, develop and integrate postgraduate students involved in cancer research.
Mission: To establish long-term, interdisciplinary collaborations, develop new skills and discuss novel ideas related to cancer-research within and beyond the Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Postgraduate Cancer Research Initiative (PG CRI) Group is housed under the umbrella of the Cancer Research Initiative in the Faculty of Health Sciences. It serves as a platform for PG students involved in cancer-related research to develop long term interdisciplinary collaborations, learn new skills, and discuss novel ideas. Formed in 2015, the PG CRI Group is primarily a mentorship program designed and run by PG students with the needs of students in mind. The group is supported by CRI director, Professor Jennifer Moodley, and is led by a small team of seven PhD students.
Review of 2018:
The PG CRI Group has had an exciting year with a number of new activities reigniting student participation and engagement across the Faculty. In June 2018, a survey was sent out to reconnect with the PG CRI community. Following which we relaunched the vision and mission of the group to 22 interested PG students from public health and the basic sciences. At this meeting, we heard more about what the PG cancer research community would like to see from the PG CRI group in the year ahead. There was a resounding call for more opportunities to engage across different cancer disciplines; to share knowledge of resources, equipment and skills across departments; and to continue with specific skills development workshops and seminars.
To meet this call, a second meeting was held on 28 August that targeted cross-disciplinary discussion and the creation of a resource list of cancer-related research skills and equipment across the Faculty. This jointly-created list was distributed to the wider PG CRI community and has helped increase PG students’ knowledge and access to local resources for quality cancer research.
Due to their demanding clinical schedules, postgraduate radiation oncology registrars and clinician-researchers were unable to attend these meetings. However, recognising the need for greater cross-pollination of skills and the potential for input from those working at the coalface of cancer care, the PG CRI planning team set out to engage the oncology registrars at Groote Schuur Hospital in cross-disciplinary training sessions.
Recognising the wide-spread need to increase data management skills for research across cancer disciplines, the PG CRI Group held three practical REDCap training sessions between October and December 2018. REDCap is a UCT-supported, secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. During these sessions Linda Mbuthini, our resident CRI database coordinator, skilfully led the attendees through the basics of REDCap database creation and management.
Despite demanding schedules, three oncology registrars were able to attend our first training session in October together with 12 other public health and basic science PG cancer researchers. Following this, the PG CRI Group was invited to present two further REDCap training sessions at the oncology registrar weekly meetings. These sessions were conducted on 22 November and 13 December with 17 and 14 registrars in attendance respectively. Once again, Linda spearheaded these training sessions with grateful thanks from the PG CRI Group.
The PG CRI Group has been actively expanding and updating its membership since June 2018. At present, the current membership base (including all interested UCT supervisors and PG students) stands at 66. Although not all members are involved at the PG level, this gives a good indication of the PG CRI network and interest base. Closer review of the PG membership indicates diverse cancer-related research interests that span clinical treatment and palliation, genetics, surveillance, imaging and epidemiology across a range of cancer types and sites. The PG CRI Group will continue to harness this richness in diversity and skill to build UCT’s PG cancer research network.
- The PG CRI Blog
Throughout the year, the PG CRI planning team has increased the online visibility of the CRI PG Group through the CRI Blog. A special thanks to Harris Onywera who has managed this blog since its creation and to Saif Khan who has willingly taken up the mantle as Harris graduates with his PhD. A new addition to this blog is the profiles of PG students that aim to provide online exposure and experience in writing personal research profiles for research platforms. To date, two members have been profiled via the CRI blog with more to come in 2019.
Summary & plan for 2019
The CRI PG Group has provided a diverse package of support to PG students across a range of disciplines in public health, basic sciences and clinical research in the Faculty in 2018. We are looking forward to building on the successes of this year by providing ongoing mentorship and support to PG students through the following events:
- targeted cancer-related workshops
- regular peer-supported writing groups
- cancer seminars
- possible cancer awareness outreaches
A big thank you to the PG planning team for their hard work and engagement throughout the past year. We look forward to an exciting 2019, knowing that “alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much”(Helen Keller).
Please feel free to contact us with any cancer-related ideas, events or opportunities to share with this growing post-graduate group.