Beverly Torok-Storb, Ph.D.
Founder Hutch Training Lab, Hutch High and other programs for underrepresented students in the sciences
Dr. Beverly Torok-Storb grew up in the impoverished Erie, Pennsylvania, housing projects. “I got to where I am because of people who helped,” she says. Those people included teachers who encouraged her to pursue her goals and, in doing so, made her feel that she belonged in the science and research world. A member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, focusing on stem cells, bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantation, she now provides mentorship to students in underserved communities who are interested in careers in science but have limited access to resources.
In 2010, Torok-Storb partnered with the Seattle-based Technology Access Foundation Academy and launched a year-round internship program for underrepresented students in the sciences. (A separate summer internship program is open to any high school student.) Because state law prohibits underage students from using the research center’s traditional labs, Torok-Storb created the first-of-its-kind student-friendly research space, the Hutch Training Lab. She is also behind Hutch High, an annual biomedical research symposium for high school sophomores, 75 percent of whom are from minority and underserved communities; and last year’s Science Trek, a one-day global health, biology and cancer research event that drew more than 700 students in 2012. (In partnership with the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, she also works with high school teachers to integrate a discussion of ethical issues in life sciences.) Other key partners in providing support for the student interns include National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, both institutes of the National Institutes of Health.
Not only are talented students connected with opportunities, “The biomedical research world benefits from having these people participate because they bring diversity and creative thought,” Torok-Storb says. She notes that the underrepresented populations in the sciences are the same populations that experience greater health care disparities, chronic diseases and more associated morbidity, and that a diverse workforce will bring more research into those critical areas. With reduced federal funding and program cuts as the new norm, Torok-Storb’s programs play a vital role in decreasing the gap between underserved students and science careers. Students who, because of social and economic barriers, may have thought they could not participate in science research see that they can get involved and contribute, and even go on to mentor others. When asked about his future plans, one teenage intern replied, “I can see myself as Dr. Bev.” —S.L.
Top Doctors 2013: Community Service Award Winners
| July 2013
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Beverly Torok-Storb, Ph.D.
The Puget Sound region is home to some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable health care practitioners in the world. But all of these resources can only make a difference in the life of an individual when he or she has access to them. This year as part of Top Doctors, we’re singling out for praise just a few of the many local health care practitioners and researchers—and their associated clinics and hospital outreach programs—who are making a difference in underserved, disenfranchised communities. These are doctors who are launching programs, volunteering their time and expertise, and building networks to improve health outlooks for people who, because of cultural and socio-economic barriers, might not otherwise get the care they need. Like many doctors in our region, these men and women go beyond the call to make our region healthier and happier. Seattle magazine, along with our Top Doctors Advisory Panel, is pleased to recognize these six outstanding leaders in the field.