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Optimize the Workforce - National Cancer Plan

Goal: The cancer care and research workforce is diverse, reflects the communities served, and meets the needs of all people with cancer and those at risk for cancer, ensuring they live longer and healthier lives.

Our efforts to end cancer as we know it will fail if we ignore our most important resource—the cancer care and research workforce. Developing and maintaining a robust, stable, and diverse biomedical workforce requires collaboration and investment across many organizations, including research universities, professional societies, philanthropic foundations, private industry, and the federal government to train and support this and the next generation of scientists.

A reddish brown, circular icon with a photo of a three health care professionals in a group. Above them are the words Optimize the Workforce.

State of the Cancer Workforce Today

Building a workforce that reflects the people it serves requires us to address longstanding factors that hinder diversity, including:

  • Exclusion of scientists and doctors from underrepresented groups.
  • Challenges around completing initial training, finding mentors, obtaining research funding, and securing academic appointments during early career stages.
  • Balancing the need to participate in scientific teams and the need for individual recognition to advance one's career.
  • The uncertainty of a successful future in cancer research due to lack of funding opportunities.

Strategies to Optimize the Cancer Workforce

  • Engage a diverse pool of talented trainees and early-career scientists and support their pursuit of careers in cancer research.
  • Eliminate barriers and facilitate entry for individuals historically excluded from or underrepresented in the cancer workforce.
  • Develop initiatives to address gaps and increase the number of and training for cancer researchers from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds.
  • Study and address the unique needs and concerns of cancer researchers at all career stages in all disciplines.
  • Generate new strategies to support career paths in life sciences and non-research science fields, such as in education, health policy, and health journalism.

Examples of NCI-Supported Research to Achieve This Goal

  • New and early-stage researchers from diverse backgrounds can get support from the Early Investigator Advancement Program, which helps them enhance their professional skills, prepare funding applications, and grow their mentoring and peer networks.
  • The Cancer Moonshot Scholars program is working to inspire, support, and attract diverse researchers and ideas to advance cancer science.


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