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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with cancer researcher Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, Ph.D., we discuss some of the challenges and disparities that cancer researchers have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MD Newsline:

What are some of the challenges and disparities that cancer researchers have faced in the wake of COVID-19?

Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, Ph.D.:

“During COVID-19, the academic research community has been challenged in a lot of ways. First, when we’re doing bench science, it’s been very difficult to maintain social distancing and conduct business as usual. Second, for months during 2020, my laboratory and most other laboratories in the country were completely closed. We had to wait until we got clearance from the institution to reopen. And I have VA funding, so we had to wait for the government to clear us to reopen our lab.

So, our research timelines, goals, and objectives for any funding that we had have been drastically impacted. As a result, we’ve been delayed in our publications and our breakthroughs. So, it wasn’t just stop on March 20, 2020, and pick back up in September 2020 like nothing happened.

We lost a lot of valuable information in the process of shutting down for that long and having to stop in the middle of animal experiments, stop in the middle of growing our cells in-vitro, and stop all of our in-vivo studies. So everything had to come to an abrupt halt. Getting back up and running is something that we’re all excited about now, but we have experienced a lot of delays.

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So what a lot of my colleagues and I took advantage of during that time was publishing more research and applying for more grant funding. But as a result, everyone had that idea. So it’s been more competitive to get research published and apply for grants.

And there’s a disparity that people haven’t been speaking about. One of them is the funding disparity faced by African American scientists. During COVID-19, we also had the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the director of the National Institutes of Health spoke out about the funding disparity experienced by African American scientists.

Another disparity that hasn’t been spoken about widely is the funding disparity experienced by female scientists. Most female scientists who are mothers were still responsible for serving as the primary caregiver for their children. So there was a boom in the number of male scientists who were able to take advantage of the downtime during COVID-19 who were able to apply for federal and private grants. You did not see the same surge in female applicants applying for grant funding.

And so there are a lot of disparities that are happening in the academic research world, some of which are undocumented, like women in science being underfunded simply because of caregiving responsibilities.”

 

Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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