• Jan 04 2024

KL2 Scholar Selected for Cancer Moonshot Program Presents Research at White House Event

Three adults stand in front of a royal blue backdrop that says "Biden Cancer Moonshot" at the top. On the left is a Black woman wearing a cream colored blazer and dark trousers; in the center is a Black man with glasses, gray blazer, cream shirt, and plaid trousers; and on the left is a white woman in a tan blazer, cream blouse, and dark trousers. They're each smiling and wearing an event lanyard.

Inaugural Cancer Moonshot Scholars Dr. Leeya Pinder, Dr. Marvin Langston, and Dr. Laurie McLouth. Courtesy of the National Cancer Institute. 


Lexington, Ky. (Jan. 4, 2024) - A KL2 Scholar with the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science who was selected as an inaugural Cancer Moonshot Scholar recently presented her research and met with biomedical research leaders at White House event.

Laurie McLouth, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and researcher with the UK Markey Cancer Center, is one of 11 emerging leaders in cancer research and innovation who were included in the first cohort of Cancer Moonshot Scholars. The Moonshot program was launched by President Biden in 2022 to support early-career researchers and help build a cancer research workforce that better represents the diversity of America. 

As a Cancer Moonshot Scholar, McLouth receives a five-year research grant for her research on improving patient mental health and quality of life during advanced lung cancer treatment for people from rural and underserved areas.

She was one of three Moonshot Scholars to present research alongside more than 40 federally-supported science and technology innovations at an event called "American Possibilities: A White House Demo Day" on November 7, 2023, in Washington, DC.

“It was like attending a rock concert, where many attendees – including White House and OSTP staff, community representatives, and advocates – clamored to take pictures with [Moonshot Scholars] Laurie, Marvin, and Leeya. I was so humbled to experience the energy in the room. I only wish that all of our Moonshot Scholars could have been in attendance to experience this moment," said Sanya A. Springfield, PhD, Director of the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities.

“These three researchers and their fellow Cancer Moonshot Scholars represent a new era of recognizing that diverse talents and perspectives are desperately needed to address and contribute to combating the difficult challenges in cancer research,” Dr. Springfield concluded, noting that this day could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of CRCHD’s Tiffany Wallace, PhD, and LeeAnn Bailey, MBBS, PhD, MS, who worked tirelessly to implement and launch the program.

A slew of emotions had run through the minds of the scholars when they received the invitation from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): in addition to being humbled and honored, they felt disbelief, sheer excitement, overwhelming joy, genuine gratitude, and reverence, both for their teams and those they serve.

“I was excited and honored to share my research and academic journey in this way,” Dr. Langston said.

The Scholars presented about themselves and their research – imparting their personal paths to cancer research careers, describing their projects and broader cancer research programs, and advising which communities could benefit from their research.


Connecting with Leaders and Fellow Researchers

In addition to presenting their research, the Scholars met and learned from others, including biomedical research leaders. Scholars were amazed by the leaders’ level of engagement with them and their research. They spent time with Monica Bertagnolli, MD, who the Senate confirmed as NIH Director that same day. Dr. Langston was inspired by meeting with Dr. Springfield and hearing her vision for the Cancer Moonshot Scholars program. He was also struck by the interest and engagement in his project from Arati Prabhakar, PhD, OSTP Director and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.

“She had a series of challenging questions for me, and our discussion was truly a highlight of the day,” said Dr. Langston, whose project focuses on risk-stratified screening for prostate cancer.

They were “excited to meet us,” “sincerely interested…in each of us and our work,” and “thoughtful and super supportive,” according to Dr. Pinder.

In addition to meeting with leaders from across the administration and government, the Scholars heard from President Joe Biden. In September 2022, President Biden announced the launch of Cancer Moonshot Scholars; on Demo Day, he attended and addressed the Health section, expressing thanks for the work they do.

“Being in the same room with the President of the United States is always a humbling and awe-inspiring experience,” Dr. Langston said.

The Scholars also heard personal stories from individuals affected by cancer and took in presentations by fellow participants, considering potential areas of collaboration. Among the many interactions that stood out were witnessing a demonstration on the life cycle of neurons, speaking with advocates for women facing trauma and researchers studying the effects of urban heat islands, and being energized by a duo using research findings to inform the supportive oncology and survivorship services they provide to people affected by cancer.

“It was both grounding and inspiring to talk with so many different people about cancer research and what we can accomplish together,” Dr. McLouth said.



Looking back on their thinking during and after the event, Drs. McLouth and Pinder described a shift that occurred throughout the course of the day. After initially thinking “I cannot believe I am here. I cannot believe my research is being included with the life-changing innovations around me,” these thoughts gave way, and Dr. McLouth realized her research “absolutely belongs” and that “people see it and know it is important.”

Dr. Pinder recalls her thinking transitioning as well. “…I remember my nervousness evolving into being honored to be in that space,” she said.

Independently and without prompting, all three Scholars paid homage to those whom they represent including, for example, their families, institutions, research fields, co-leads, teams, and participants, and the Cancer Moonshot Scholars program.

“I also reflect on the importance of diversity, which seems to be central to the [Cancer] Moonshot Scholars program. We all have to find ways to continue to open doors to communities and groups of people that have historically lacked opportunities or resources,” Dr. Langston said.

More information and photos available are available here. »


Text and photos courtesy of National Cancer Institute.

Cancer Moonshot Scholars is designed to advance cancer science while also diversifying the pool of researchers and the approaches to cancer research that NCI funds. Learn more about the program, the researchers it currently supports, and the upcoming due date for applications.

The Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities leads Cancer Moonshot Scholars, with active participation from a trans-NCI steering committee. NCI divisions that have subject matter expertise manage the individual grant awards.