Melody Kitchen awarded NIH grant for cancer research in Israel

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USF College of Public Health master’s student Melody Kitchen is one of fifteen students from across the U.S. chosen for the 2018 Cancer Epidemiology Education in Special Populations Program (CEESP).

“I could not believe it!” Kitchen said. “After putting so many hours of hard work into my research proposal, I felt so grateful that my efforts were recognized and that the committee saw my potential as a future cancer epidemiologist and wanted to invest in me.”

CEESP is a research training program funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute that funds students to conduct mentored cancer research in both the global and U.S. minority settings.

Melody Kitchen (second row, fourth from left) with the 2018 cohort of CEESP recipients and their mentors during career development training held in New York. Also present is USF COPH doctoral student Linh Duong (first row third from left). (Photo courtesy of Melody Kitchen)

“Being a part of this prestigious cancer research program gives students the mentorship and funding necessary to conduct their research idea,” Kitchen said. “The program places an emphasis on special populations—both internationally and minority settings in the U.S.”

Kitchen spent more than three months conducting field research in Haifa, Israel’s Rambam Health Care Campus this past May.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Gilad Amiel, a urologic cancer surgeon, she examined “Factors in Smoking Cessation Outcomes among Israeli Cancer Patients.”

While Kitchen said the research is still in progress and many details cannot be disclosed at this time, she said the overall basis of the research is to “implement a tobacco cessation intervention in the preoperative clinic, specifically to study smoking cessation outcomes among cancer patients who smoke.”

Haifa, Israel where Kitchen is conducting her research. (Photo courtesy of Melody Kitchen)

“I will place a special emphasis on examining the disparity of smoking and smoking outcomes between Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Israelis,” Kitchen said. “I hope to be able to publish our work sometime next year.”

In addition to the research funding, this year’s CEESP recipients participated in an orientation weekend in Chicago where they were prepped for their future research endeavors, culminating in a private post-summer career development workshop in New York City where they heard from a variety of speakers including epidemiologists, researchers, and clinicians.  Students presented their research to the group and received feedback.

“The CEESP program provides some incredibly unique and special opportunities,” she said. “You are not only connected with a mentor who helps you develop, conduct, and analyze your research, but you are also given access to many other highly experienced epidemiologists who are ready and willing to invest in you, your project, and your future career and research goals.”

Melody Kitchen, MPH, shares her research proposal during the career development workshop in New York. (Photo courtesy of Melody Kitchen)

To apply for CEESP program, students must be enrolled as a master’s or doctoral student with an interest in conducting epidemiological cancer research. Applicants are then connected with a mentor in the field of their interest and work to create a research proposal.

Proposals are presented to the CEESP committee, where they select the top 15 projects, according to Kitchen.

Of those chosen, Kitchen was the only one who conducted research in Israel. Other research sites included Egypt, Tanzania and Argentina among others.

“This was an incredibly special opportunity to have been given, and I feel so honored that the committee saw enough potential in me to give me one of the coveted spots in the program,” Kitchen said. “To be given this kind of opportunity and to be invested in by expert epidemiologists, makes me feel incredibly motivated to continue to challenge myself and push for even more opportunities in cancer epidemiology.”

Kitchen, who said she’s always had a passion for examining health disparities and cancer, said she hopes to work as a cancer epidemiologist upon graduating.

“I am looking forward to finding more ways to get involved in this type of research and learn from those who have dedicated their lives to this,” she said. “Doing this in an international capacity would be even more exciting to me! I have a special interest in the Middle East and would love to be involved in research there.”


Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health