Written by Tehreem Rehman,
Walt Whitman High School Student I was fortunate enough to receive the opportunity to intern at one of the most prestigious cancer research laboratories in the nation over this summer – Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC). This was all possible thanks to the supportive faculty at my school and the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition’s Student and Scientist Environmental Research Intern program. My experience at FCCC was truly amazing. Not only did it enable me to gain tremendous experience in working in a lab, but helped me mature on a more personal level. At the lab, I was taught how to extract RNA from rat tissue, as well as how to isolate RNA and DNA. I also learned to measure the concentration of RNA and DNA in a sample using the nanodrop and to do cell culture of breast epithelial cells. In addition, I was able to assist in gel electrophoresis, preparing whole mounts of rat tissue, mircroarrays that measure gene expression by the amount of mRNA present on the slide, and using the bioanalyzer.
However, working in a lab taught me something more than simply how to follow protocols. I learned that researchers, contrary to popular belief, are not constantly running around frantically and isolating themselves from everyone else. Research is actually more laid back, and researchers are always communicating with each other for new ideas or advice. They are able to perform their research pretty
independently and at their own pace, without having a mentor constantly breathing down their necks. Unfortunately, in our society, young people are not encouraged to pursue a career in research. They are not told of the immense personal satisfaction research brings as well as how beneficial their work would be to others. After all, the medicine and instruments that doctors are using today are all
applications of research.
My stay at FCCC also helped me realize that our earth is now in a very precarious state. We are all constantly eating, breathing, and yes, storing chemicals - many of which are suspected to be carcinogens. There is not one person on this earth who doesn’t have chemicals, such as DDT, still in his body fat, or in cases of women, breast milk. The fact that DDT can still be traced in our bodies even though it was banned decades ago, depicts how these chemicals are even more detrimental due to their persistence in the environment and our bodies. I was also confronted with the harsh reality of how prevalent cancer, especially breast cancer, is in our nation. Not only are the rates of cancer constantly going up, but sperm counts and fertility keep going down. With many researchers continuing to adamantly funnel their research towards the genetic components of disease, the more overt environment causes often end up being overlooked. While working at FCCC, I was given a rude awakening of the endangerment of the human race and how we are fully responsible for this. Over the past several years, more and more animal species are becoming extinct or developing abnormal behavior and physical characteristics, such as deformed genitalia.
Correspondingly, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and infertility are becoming more common among humans. If more and more of our fellow mammals are becoming extinct, why can’t the same thing eventually happen to us? “It’s time that people start to become more aware of how vulnerable they truly are to acquiring cancer, so they would hopefully become persuaded to take matters into their own hands and strive to take control of their environment before its too late.”
The essential mission of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition HBCAC) is to create accessible pathways of involvement. In 17 years we have created a strong network for breast health consumers consisting of educational resources, outreach programs and breast care experts. We work in partnership with local hospitals, medical offices, nutritional counselors and governmental agencies. Our journey has led us to become a nationally known public health advocacy group and to understand the complexities of human growth and development. The organization offers cutting-edge activism - relentlessly pushing the political envelope towards policy reform and increased funding for scientific research and environmental health studies. Our tradition is to mobilize community minded people in a broad based "coalition of concern" to enact change for the generations to come. And now, with the development of our summer scholarship mentor program, the future is present.
HBCAC proudly announces the launch of the Students & Scientists Environmental Research Intern Program. Modeled after the successful Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, the program made its maiden voyage into Huntington this summer.
In keeping with the overall arching philosophy of HBCAC, this outstanding program encourages participants at every level to make important contributions with great results. Research institutions have tremendous resources to generate a compelling interest in science for students. Broadening access to hands-on science is a gift such programs can give to diverse student populations and can strengthen scientific literacy. Of particular interest to grassroots organization such as, HBCAC & GNBCC is the authentic connection to the scientists; such a program provides and how it demonstrates the importance of environmental research as an essential part of science education. Giving students an opportunity to get excited about science, to understand the research conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), as well as experience how science matters and the differences environmental research can make furthers our message in real time to the all important "next generation".
Huntington Organization Sponsors High School Students
At Prestigious Fox Chase Cancer Center
submitted by HBCAC | 09/10/2007 10:57 AM
HUNTINGTON, NEW YORK - September 5, 2007 - The essential mission of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (HBCAC) has been to create accessible pathways of involvement. They have spent 17 years creating a network for breast health consumers consisting of educational resources, outreach programs and breast care experts. Working in partnership with local hospitals, medical offices, nutritional counselors and governmental agencies, the organization has expanded to become a nationally known public health advocacy group. Understanding the complexities of human growth and development, the organization offers cutting-edge activism – relentlessly pushing the political envelope towards policy reform and increased funding for scientific research and environmental health studies. In its seventh year, their Prevention Is The Cure (PITC) campaign has mobilized community minded people in a broad based “coalition of concern” to enact change for the generations to come. And now, with the development of a summer scholarship mentor program, the future is present.
Through PITC, the organization’s environmental and primary prevention component, the Students & Scientists Environmental Research Program has proudly launched. Following the model of a highly successful grassroots scholarship program for high school students created by the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, the Students & Scientists Environmental Research Program made its maiden voyage this summer. “The coalition’s platform For Our Daughters provides a place for discovery, awareness and the exchange of ideas regarding our health,” says founder Karen Joy Miller. “The Students & Scientists Environmental Research Program is a shining example and the realization of this critical philosophy.”
Having spent many years as a health advocate with a particular interest in breast cancer, Ms. Miller has forged relationships with many nationally known and esteemed cancer researchers. When she approached husband and wife research team, Dr.’s Jose & Irma Russo of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia with the research program concept, the answer was clear. “The Students & Scientists program is a wonderful opportunity for the students and for the scientists”, says Julia Pereira, a Fox Chase researcher, who acted as a mentor and student liaison in the program. “As scientists we have a great opportunity to show our passion, share our knowledge and hopefully increase interest in sciences. The high school students have a chance to see real life inside a laboratory – how research is done, why scientists don’t have all the answers and to help see past stereotypes.”
Fox Chase Cancer Center was formed in 1974 and is one of the nation’s first comprehensive cancer centers. Research is conducted in more than 80 laboratories by a staff of more than 325 physicians and scientists. About 170 clinical trials of new prevention, diagnostic and treatment techniques are under way at any one time with almost 800 new patients a year participating in treatment studies.
With a Nobel Prize winning research facility ready to host a 4 week full hands-on breast cancer laboratory research internship, the search for the perfect student began. A key player in the fast tracking of this unique program was the administration of Walt Whitman High School. “Whitman has significantly expanded its Science Research Program in recent years. One of the program goals is to further establish relationships with local organizations, educational institutions and laboratories in an effort to provide our students with interesting and comprehensive research experiences,” says Walt Whitman principal, James Polansky. “Upon speaking to Karen Miller, it quickly became apparent that she could facilitate a valuable summer opportunity through the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition for a particularly interested and motivated Whitman student.” That student was outstanding Whitman junior, Tehreem Rehman.
“I had initially learned about the internship through my science teacher. I have had a passion for science since I was about eleven years old and throughout high school was always eager to get hands on experience in a laboratory setting,” comments Ms. Rehman, who worked daily during the month long program in a Fox Chase laboratory supervised by two staff mentors. “What was especially appealing about this particular program was that the internship would enable me to assist in an experiment investigating a common pollutant and its effect on the development of breast cancer. I have always felt the reason behind rising rates of cancer was somehow interrelated with the environment and getting the opportunity to aid in research that coincided with my own personal beliefs was truly phenomenal” she proudly explained.
In keeping with the overall arching philosophy of HBCAC and its PITC platform, this outstanding program encourages participants at every level to make important contributions with great results. Research institutions have tremendous resources to generate a compelling interest in science for students. Broadening access to hands-on science is a gift such programs can give to diverse student populations and can strengthen scientific literacy. Of particular interest to grassroots groups such as HBCAC is the authentic connection to the scientists such a program provides and how it demonstrates the importance of research as an essential part of science education. Giving students an opportunity to get excited about science – to experience how science matters and the differences environmental research can make furthers our message in real time to the all important “next generation”.
“I learned more than I would have ever expected in my fours weeks at Fox Chase” says Ms. Rehman. “I realized that it is truly imperative for our nation to encourage more students to pursue a career in science research. And most importantly, I became so much more aware about the suspected causes of breast cancer and the extent of the detrimental effects of the pollutants in our environment.”
Ms. Rehman put the knowledge and experience she gained at the Fox Chase Cancer Center into an 18 page PowerPoint presentation which was presented to the laboratory staff on her final day in the program. She also conducted an in-depth personal interview with her mentors, renowned cancer researchers, Dr.’s Jose and Irma Russo. “This summer, Tehreem pursued her interests and it seems that she clearly enjoyed the experience” says Mr. Polansky. “We are hoping that this is a harbinger of additional opportunities for Whitman Research students within a rapidly growing program. I’d like to thank Karen and HBCAC for making Tehreem’s summer experience possible.
Tehreem Rehman, Walt Whitman H.S.
Fox Chase Cancer Center, July 2007
Students And Scientists Environmental Research Intern Program
We are seeing now, more than ever before, a growing epidemic of environmentally triggered diseases. The need to take a long, hard look at how we approach public health issues is paramount! New partnerships must be woven together to make effective and necessary changes in improving our health. Our lives depend on it! Traditional medical professionals, integrative healthcare providers, research scientists, communities, and environmental advocates are working hand in hand collectively to redesign our approach toward public health.
Over the years, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition has taken on that challenge and has had many successes along the way. Most recently, in partnership with the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, HBCAC sponsored Tehreem Rehman of Walt Whitman High School to participate in the Student and Scientist Environmental Research Intern program at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia. We want to acknowledge and express our appreciation to Doctors Irma and Jose Russo, Dr. Fathima Sheriff, Dr. Julia Pereira, Patricia Russo and all of the affiliates at Fox Chase. This unique opportunity provided Tehreem with the opportunity to learn about how dioxin (TCDD) affects the mammary gland.