Childhood Cancer Fellowship Awarded to Princeton University Student

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SEARCHING FOR A DRUG: Princeton University sophomore Beianka Tomlinson, fourth from left, is one of 12 students across the country to receive a Northwestern Mutual grant for the childhood cancer research.

By Anne Levin

Growing up in Jamaica, Beianka Tomlinson realized early on that access to quality health care was a problem, especially for children. She knew very early on that she wanted to help.

“I always wanted to be a doctor, and I believe this is the path that God has made for my life because it is a passion that I have since I can speak,” she said in an email this week. “It sounds very cliché, but there’s no other way to explain it.”

As one of 12 students across the country to receive a grant to do research in childhood cancer, sophomore year at Princeton University took her one step closer to her goal. Last month, Northwestern Mutual donated $ 60,000 among 12 recipients, awarded as part of the Pediatric Oncology Student Education (POST) program at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Through the program, Tomlinson worked at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and studied the disparities between children who relapsed acute myeloid leukemia. Specifically, they learn how patient outcomes differ based on factors such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

There is only one children’s hospital in Jamaica, a country of nearly three million people. Tomlinson volunteered at fundraising events to increase the number of intensive care unit beds and medical equipment at the hospital.

Although Tomlinson’s goal remains to become a doctor, research has become an additional goal. “Research is the place where lasting changes are made and medical advancements emerge, enabling generations of people, such as those from marginalized groups, to have better healthcare experiences in the future,” a- she declared. “For these reasons, I want to be just as involved as a practicing physician as I participate in research. “

The POST program was created by life insurance company Northwestern Mutual in 2011. Student beneficiaries like Tomlinson have the chance to experience research by working directly with principal investigators to explore research in an area that interests them.

“The Northwestern Mutual Foundation is dedicated to finding better treatments and cures for childhood cancer and supporting children and families affected by the disease,” read a press release from the company. “Since 2012, the organization has supported the fight against childhood cancer through its Childhood Cancer Program by donating over $ 35 million to support families and survivors, and has funded over 455,000 hours of research with partners like Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and other nonprofits across the United States. “

Tomlinson is particularly fascinated by the socio-economic aspects of her research.

“Like the marginalized in Jamaica, those who belong to minority groups here in the United States face their own problems,” she said. “People of color are more likely to die from a chronic disease than their white counterparts, and the cause is not fully understood. What’s compelling and at the same time frustrating is the magnitude of this disparity for children of color, which made me want to learn more about the factors that affect patient outcomes. Is a higher death rate among this group influenced by genetics or socio-economic pressures induced by race? To what extent does each factor play a role and how do they combine to determine an outcome for a child? This is something that I would like to explore as a researcher.

Tomlinson realizes that she still has a lot to learn before deciding on her specific research goals. “What I do know, with absolute certainty,” she said, “is that I will be devoting my time before medical school and eventually as a physician to understanding diseases, like leukemia, that seem disproportionately affect children of color from low-income families. more. “


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