Women in Science and The Prostate Cancer Foundation - Andrea Miyahira

November 29, 2021

Alicia Morgans and Andrea Miyahira discuss how the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) supports the development and research endeavors of women investigating prostate cancer and science. They discuss the objectives of the Women in Science Forum at the Prostate Cancer Foundation Annual Scientific Retreat. 


Andrea K. Miyahira, Ph.D., Director of Research, Prostate Cancer Foundation

Alicia Morgans, MD, MPH, Genitourinary Medical Oncologist, Medical Director of Survivorship Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

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Alicia Morgans: Hi, my name is Alicia Morgans and I'm a GU Medical Oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I am so excited to have here with me today, Dr. Andrea Miyahira, who is the Global Director of Research and Scientific Communications at the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Thank you so much for being here with me today, Andrea.

Andrea Miyahira: Thank you, Dr. Morgans, for having me.

Alicia Morgans: Wonderful. Well, I am just really excited too, to talk with you about today's topic, which is to think about and talk about the way that PCF really supports the development and research endeavors of women investigating prostate cancer and science in general. Can you tell me a little bit about your philosophy on this? And then we can dig into exactly what the PCF is doing to support young women, and women researchers of all ages, I should say.

Andrea Miyahira: Thank you. Thank you, Alicia. Yes, it's very important to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to support women in science. We fund women researchers. Since 2015, we've had a Women in Science Forum at the Prostate Cancer Foundation Annual Scientific Retreat, which is really there to support the pipeline of women and help us to talk about how to overcome barriers that all women tend to face and also to form a networking community.

Alicia Morgans: Wonderful. Well, and you're a doctor yourself and you know these struggles that we can sometimes have, very, very personally. Even as a young girl, I'm sure you were interested in science. What does the PCF do to really build the pipeline and support the development of women who are our youngest scientists?

Andrea Miyahira: Well, at the Women in Science Forum, we've started focusing from the very beginning on reaching out to women at the earliest stages of the pipeline, so we've had a program for high school students. So we've brought high school students to either attend the forum when we have it in person and now that it's virtual, we feature them as part of the agenda. And so we get to hear from these girls how they are interested in science and what their dreams are. And we try to support them by showing them what a woman can look like at different stages in their career. So they get to see these women, these women that look like them and have faced the same kinds of struggles that they have faced. And so I hope that it is helping them to see that they can do it too.

Alicia Morgans: I think it's definitely inspiring them. I have been inspired by these young women as they come to the retreats and shared their hopes and their interests. And those interests can be even beyond just being scientists. They are engaging in science of all kinds, whether it's clinical or lab-based or sometimes dry lab-based. So it's really exciting to hear what they think about it. Why is this so important to the Prostate Cancer Foundation?

Andrea Miyahira: Well, it's just important to us to create a diverse community of researchers. We know that research is always better when we have different perspectives. And that's not just different genders, it is also different ethnicities and races, people from all over the world, looking at a problem from different viewpoints. And we are always going to get better and more constructive and a broader type of research if we look at things from different perspectives.

Alicia Morgans: That makes sense and is really, I think, the interest of all of ours as we are trying to enhance inclusion and diversity in our teams and in our clinical efforts as well. What are you and the PCF doing for women who are of the research age? Maybe a young investigator age, we can start there, and then think more about women who are more senior, because you continue to support them as well.

Andrea Miyahira: Right. Well, PCF has different funding opportunities for investigators of different ages. We have a Young Investigator Award, and that's to support people that are within six years of their terminal degree. So it's postdocs and early career academic faculty and clinicians. And we really focus on trying to have that class of people that we bring in each year be diverse and have a good representation of women. We also have Challenge Awards which support team science. And one of the important things in those awards is that it is a team of people, at least three people, one must be a young investigator. And we really do like to see diversity in that team.

Alicia Morgans: Well, one of the things that I think is so special about PCF is that of course you give out amazing awards and support the development of really rigorous science, but once an individual is part of the PCF family, that person is really continued... there's a continued embrace and continued support over time. Can you speak to that a little bit and how it is so important to bring women into the fold and then continue that collaboration over time?

Andrea Miyahira: Absolutely. I think that is one of the things that's most special about the Prostate Cancer Foundation is particularly with our young investigators, we've created a community. And this started since the beginning of supporting young investigators. We now have a broad variety of opportunities that we offer them. We have a young investigator community, which consists of at least 10 working groups that meet virtually every month. And each working group is led by young investigators, and primarily it's volunteer-based. So anyone can volunteer to lead a group. Anyone can volunteer to present in a group. And so I think that really brings in a lot of diversity and lets everyone take the opportunity for themselves to be part of this community. We also include young investigators as reviewers of all of our grants. So any award applications often have young investigators reviewing them to score the applicant and the science.

We also have the Coffey-Holden Prostate Cancer Academy Meeting, which is... It's my favorite meeting of the year. It's this discussion-focused meeting. It's primarily focused to bring in young investigators. So at least half of the attendees and half the presenters have to be early-career investigators, and the committee and the entire agenda are put together by young investigators. So we have a very broad program that really tries to build community and also always provides mentorship and opportunities for both networking and leadership and mentorship.

Alicia Morgans: One of the things you mentioned, I think is really key, is that you and the team actually allow people to nominate themselves to volunteer for positions. When positions are just anointed or given by someone sort of directing the way, often those positions can be given to people who are very similar to the individual deciding. But I think it's so important that you give anyone the opportunity to volunteer, to step up and say, "I would love to lead this." And I'm sure that was purposeful.

Andrea Miyahira: It was purposeful.

Alicia Morgans: Wonderful. Anything else you would like to add to the thoughts that you have about the importance of women in science to PCF?

Andrea Miyahira: Well, I'm just really proud to be a part of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. I'm glad that we've made it part of our core to really promote women in science. I'm really proud of the Women in Science Forum that we do every year. It's one of my favorite days to plan every year. So if you can attend or if you have attended in the past, I encourage anyone to attend. Also, recordings for our past two years, last year's and this year's, are available on our website for anyone who is interested in how to raise up women in science and also how to break these barriers and bring them down. I think that's really important.

Alicia Morgans: Well, thank you. Thank you so much for your continued support of the entire PCF community, particularly your support of women and of young investigators. No matter what age, we all need to come together around finding the cure for prostate cancer and making these advances. So I appreciate your efforts and I appreciate your time today. Thank you.

Andrea Miyahira: Thank you, Dr. Morgans. It's always a pleasure to be here.