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Aleah Thomas: In the Spotlight

Photo of NCI Connect for Cancer Prevention Study Fellow Aleah Thomas

Aleah Thomas, Connect for Cancer Prevention Study Fellow

Meet Aleah Thomas, NCI Post-baccalaureate Fellow  

Aleah Thomas shares how, through her various roles within Connect, she hopes to help shape the future of cancer prevention for all people, with a special emphasis on those who are clinically underserved. 

An Opportunity to Bring Undergraduate Studies to Life 

Aleah joined NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics in May of 2022, shortly after completing her undergraduate studies in global and public health. “As a public health enthusiast, I was excited about the opportunity to be brought into a cohort study early in its development,” Aleah shared. Her role on the Connect team includes collaborating with NCI researchers and principal investigators across the country to help develop the Social and Structural Determinants of Health Survey, a future survey for Connect participants designed to  measure neighborhood environment, experiences of discrimination, and experiences of housing, food, or economic insecurities. These data will then be available in the future for scientists to study whether these factors are related to cancer risk. 

Aleah also supports the Connect Communications and Engagement team in building diverse recruitment and retention strategies to help guide partner health systems in their local outreach.  

An Advocate for Diversity in Research 

Currently, Aleah is looking at the first question participants, like you, responded to about how they heard about the study. She is interested in better understanding whether there are differences in how marketing strategies reached and resonated with various population groups. Making sure research includes a diverse group of people from the U.S. is especially important to Aleah, who shared, “I am of Caribbean descent and many in my community in the U.S., as well as other minority groups, have higher rates of getting and dying from certain cancers. Increasing their participation in Connect can expand our knowledge of what causes cancer among these populations and how we may better treat or prevent it for future generations.” 

Aleah understands that a diverse study helps to improve the quality of research, and potential discoveries, for everyone. Different populations live, eat, and play in diverse ways. If we don’t include a variety of people with diverse lifestyles in Connect, we won’t be able to build a better picture of how health and behavior patterns affect cancer risk for all communities. Connect hopes to inform how we all may be able to better prevent cancer and detect it earlier.  

Aleah will start medical school this fall at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. As a future provider, she plans to use Connect data to conduct research on topics that are understudied, like associations between the use of beauty products and the risk of developing certain cancers. 

Share Your Story

Cancer has affected Aleah personally – she lost her paternal grandmother to stomach cancer, and her maternal grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. However, she doesn’t know much about their diagnoses. Through her public health work, she also wants to help normalize talking about cancer among families. Having a more complete family health history could help members better understand unique disease risks and ways to potentially reduce them.   

Like Aleah, you may have a special reason for participating in Connect. Consider sharing what motivates you by contacting our team at the Connect Support Center. We would love to feature you in an upcoming spotlight!

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