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Developing a Psycho-Oncology Fellowship to support pre-doctoral health disparity research on adolescent and young adult sex and gender needs during cancer - Curtis Center

March 2020 - April 2022

Adolescent and young adult cancer patients (AYAs) are a vulnerable, age-defined population of cancer patients (15-39) whose unique life stage obligates specialized psychosocial care. Until recently, paucity of attention has been paid to this population, resulting in significant health disparities. Oncofertility – a subdiscipline of cancer medicine that incorporates sexuality, reproductive health, and fertility preservation – is a key issue affecting AYA psychosocial health outcomes. Oncofertility purports to include a range of reproductive health related concerns, yet emphasis on fertility preservation eclipses other reproductive health needs, especially for sexual and gender minorities at the intersection of diverse socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds. From a health equity perspective, it is pressing that scholars interrogate the ways in which an exclusively biomedical approach to oncofertility privileges a heteronormative framing of fertility at the expense of a capacious understanding of reproductive health care during cancer. In response to this need, we propose to create a pre-doctoral Psycho-Oncology (P-O) Fellowship at the emergent Michigan Medicine Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Research Institute (MAYA). This position will work to achieve our goals: (1) To increase the presence and influence of social work research in AYA cancer, especially as it relates to oncological health disparities and (2) To foster collaboration with oncologists and other researchers at Michigan Medicine and to form an inter-disciplinary team to pursue external funding mechanisms. Our specific aims for this position are to bolster MAYA’s research infrastructure through promotion of: (1) Interprofessional coordination of health-equity research; and (2) Multi-generational interdisciplinary mentorship and training.

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