Early Admission to Doctor of Medicine student at UH Manoa wins prestigious research grant

University of Hawaii System's picture

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Director of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine

Dr. Bruce Shiramizu, before and after his head-shaving for charity.

UH Mānoa is one of only 21 universities this year awarded a St. Baldrick’s Foundation summer research grant to fight childhood cancer.

This month, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation announced it is providing $105,000 — in grants of $5,000 each — to support summer research fellowships. UH Mānoa student Natalie Kamada, who is in the Doctor of Medicine Early Acceptance Program, will spend the summer working in a pediatric oncology setting in the John A. Burns School of Medicine's (JABSOM's) Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology. She will complete a research project under the leadership of childhood cancer expert Bruce Shiramizu, MD, a JABSOM professor and pediatrician.

Kamada was born and raised in Waikele on O’ahu, and graduated from Maryknoll High.

“I decided to become a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow to further understand how cancers affect children and to aid in the early detection of cancer cells that could lead to relapse,” said Kamada. “I hope to identify the presence of cancer cells to help improve treatment types and the health of children.

In the early acceptance program, if Kamada continues to remain in good standing, she will enter medical school at JABSOM after she graduates from UH Mānoa. She says she is interested in many areas of study, including pediatrics, radiology and oncology.

“In a more personal sense,” said Kamada, “I hope to become a doctor who can understand the needs of her patients and can contribute back to her community.”

The St. Baldrick Foundation summer research scholarships help to nurture the next generation of cancer scientists. The need for such funding is critical. Less than 4 percent of all federal cancer research funding is allocated to childhood cancer, making this specialty less sought after by aspiring researchers. Inspiring some of the best scientific minds to focus on a career in childhood cancer research will benefit everyone.

JABSOM’s Dr. Shiramizu is committed to the cause. He has helped raise research dollars for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation through an annual event in which people agree to have their heads shaved if their friends and colleagues will donate to the foundation.

St. Baldrick’s funded a total of $24.1 million in childhood cancer research grants last year.

About the Bendesky Award 
Lauren Bendesky, 19, was a 2014 St. Baldrick’s Ambassador and is a 4-year childhood cancer survivor. As a teen, Bendesky fought cancer and became involved with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which increasingly fueled her passion for pursuing a career devoted to the treatment of kids with cancer. Now in college and having already completed an oncology research internship at MD Anderson, Bendesky has accepted a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine, researching the immune system of patients with pediatric myelodysplastic syndrome (a disease affecting production of blood cells) in hopes she can help kids like her.

This series of grants is the first of several that will be awarded by the Foundation this year. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation funded a total of $24.1 million childhood cancer research grants in 2016. To learn how you can get involved visit www.StBaldricks.org

About St. Baldrick’s Foundation
As the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation believes that kids are special and deserve to be treated that way. St. Baldrick’s funds are granted to some of the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts who are working to find cures and better treatments for all childhood cancers. Kids need treatments as unique as they are – and that starts with funding research just for them. Join us at StBaldricks.org to help support the best cancer treatments for kids.

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