Back to News

Promoting Diversity and Equity in Cancer Research, Women Leaders in Oncology® and Vaniam Group Announce Recipients of 2023 Young Investigator Awards

Patricia Mae Garcia Santos, MD, MS, receives annual Conquer Cancer-Women Leaders in Oncology “Women Who Conquer Cancer” Young Investigator Award and Tafadzwa L. Chaunzwa, MD, MHS, receives annual Conquer Cancer-Vaniam Group LLC Young Investigator Award, dedicated to Black, African, or African American cancer researchers

CHICAGO, June 2, 2023 – Conquer Cancer®, the ASCO Foundation, today presented the 2023 Young Investigator Awards (YIAs) funded by Women Leaders in Oncology® (WLO) and Vaniam Group. Both annual awards recognize and promote greater diversity and equity across cancer research. 

  • Patricia Mae Garcia Santos, MD, MS, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, became the seventh recipient of the Conquer Cancer-Women Leaders in Oncology Women Who Conquer Cancer YIA for her ongoing work leveraging Emergency Medicaid data to understand disease burden, resource utilization, and health-related expenditures among undocumented immigrants with cancer in New York.


  • Tafadzwa L. Chaunzwa, MD, MHS, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, became the third recipient of the Conquer Cancer-Vaniam Group LLC YIA, which is dedicated to Black, African, or African American cancer researchers. Dr. Chaunzwa’s funded research is focused on developing lung cancer immunotherapy biomarkers using supervised and self-supervised biomedical image representation learning techniques.


“While oncology research, biopharma innovation, and medical practice are becoming more diverse, an imbalance persists at the leadership level,” said Deanna B. van Gestel, Founder and CEO of Vaniam Group and WLO, and Board Member of Conquer Cancer. “Women and people of color are less likely to be lead authors on peer-reviewed publications, principal investigators in clinical trials, or keynote speakers at industry conferences. It is an honor to support Dr. Santos and Dr. Chaunzwa in their important research, and we believe doing so will help pave more equitable career paths across our industry, while achieving better health outcomes for individuals living with cancer.”

Both grants were presented by Conquer Cancer in conjunction with the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting held in Chicago on June 2-6.

Women Leaders in Oncology

Created in 2014 by Ms. van Gestel, WLO is focused on growing a community and fostering meaningful connections for women in oncology drug development, clinical research, and medical practice. WLO facilitates networking, mentorship, and research funding for women across oncology at all levels, along with sponsorship opportunities that enable corporations to exceed their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) goals in a measurable and impactful way.

In addition to raising funds to support the annual YIA, WLO community members also contribute toward the $1.35 million endowment that Ms. van Gestel has pledged to raise by 2026 to fund future Women Who Conquer Cancer YIAs. Anyone interested in supporting this cause can donate at CONQUER.ORG/WLO.

Conquer Cancer-Vaniam Group LLC YIA

Presented by Conquer Cancer and funded by Vaniam Group, the Conquer Cancer-Vaniam Group LLC YIA provides annual research grants to Black, African, or African American researchers who specialize in oncology. The YIA was established in 2021 to encourage more people of color to apply for Conquer Cancer grants. Dr. Chaunzwa is the third recipient of this YIA. In 2021, Quaovi H. Sodji, MD, PhD, of University of Wisconsin-Madison, received the inaugural grant while completing residency at Stanford University for his research exploring a novel immunotherapy approach to combat pancreatic cancer. Chijioke Nze, MD, MPH, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, received last year’s grant for his research into the most significant barriers to minority participation in lymphoma clinical trials.   

Patricia Mae Garcia Santos, MD, MS

As a recipient of the WLO Women Who Conquer Cancer YIA, Dr. Santos will conduct research examining cancer burden and the state of cancer care among undocumented immigrants in the United States—largely excluded from most forms of public health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Together with a multi-disciplinary team of health services experts from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), New York University, and the American Cancer Society, Dr. Santos will lead the analysis of novel claims data to assess healthcare utilization, expenditures, and barriers to cancer among Emergency Medicaid beneficiaries with cancer in New York—the state with the second largest Medicaid program and third largest immigrant population in the nation. Moving forward, Dr. Santos hopes her work will not only have important implications for Medicaid program administration and financing but will also help shape future policies to improve access to care for all vulnerable immigrants in the United States.

Dr. Santos is a rising PGY-5 and Chief Resident in Radiation Oncology at MSK. She is also a Filipina American immigrant, child of immigrants, and lifelong New Yorker raised in East Flatbush—a historically underserved neighborhood in the heart of Brooklyn. Dr. Santos completed her undergraduate studies at Brown University, graduating with Honors in 2013. She then received her medical degree in 2019 from the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a finalist for the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and an Arnold P. Gold Humanism Honor Society inductee.

Tafadzwa L. Chaunzwa, MD

As a recipient of the Conquer Cancer-Vaniam Group LLC YIA, Dr. Chaunzwa and his colleagues will use self-supervised learning algorithms to develop cancer imaging biomarkers for lung cancer immunotherapy. They will build artificial intelligence (AI) systems for visual representation learning to find signatures within imaging scans that can help predict the behavior of lung cancer. They will then combine these signatures with current predictors to improve the ability to predict response to locoregional and systemic antineoplastic treatments, including immunotherapy. Because cancer treatments pose a risk for side effects, it is important to identify those individuals who will benefit the most from treatment, inform efforts to intensify therapy among non-responders, and ultimately find a personalized balance between therapeutic benefit and potential harm.

Dr. Chaunzwa is a Holman Research Pathway Resident Physician at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program, a joint residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Boston Children’s Hospital. He obtained his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering and mathematics from Duke University and completed his medical school education at Yale University, where he also earned a master’s degree with a focus on biomedical data science.

About Vaniam Group

Vaniam Group is a people-first, purpose-driven, independent network of healthcare and scientific communications agencies committed to helping biopharmaceutical companies realize the full potential of their compounds across oncology, virology, and rare disease. Founded in 2007 as a virtual-by-design organization, Vaniam Group harnesses the talents and expertise of team members around the world. For more information, visit

ASCO® and Conquer Cancer®, the ASCO Foundation, are registered trademarks of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Used with permission. ASCO and Conquer Cancer are not partners or affiliates of WLO or Vaniam Group and do not recommend or endorse any organization, product, or service.

Share This Post