Passion for cancer research drives GCSU public health professor to pursue external funding

Passion for cancer research drives GCSU public health professor to pursue external funding

Being awarded a grant your first time applying is rare. Dr. Ernie Kaninjing, assistant professor of public health at Georgia College & State University (GCSU), doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing external funding for his research on disparate prostate cancer outcomes among African immigrant men in the United States.

Dr. Ernie Kaninjing
Dr. Ernie Kaninjing

“Be persistent. It doesn’t happen overnight,” Kaninjing said. “A lot of my successful grant proposals have taken years and years of work. You have to be dedicated. You have to be in it for the long haul.”

The need for Kaninjing’s research is clear: In the U.S., Black men are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than their white counterparts. Kaninjing’s passion for eliminating those disparities motivates him to seek out external grants. He credits his rigorous doctoral training and time management skills for the ability to work on several different grant proposals at the same time.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the professor funding through their Geographic Management of Cancer Health Disparities Program in 2017 for a pilot study. The pilot funding allowed him to collect and analyze preliminary data and show his ability to recruit and work with African immigrant men in the U.S. for future grant proposals. It laid the groundwork for his current grant with the Department of Defense focusing on the social determinants of African immigrant health.

According to Kaninjing, being passionate about the issue you’re addressing in your funding proposal is a must for researchers at GCSU. He suggests giving yourself ample time to complete a proposal; collaborating with colleagues who possess strengths in areas where you’re lacking; and consulting with colleagues familiar with your grant mechanism of choice to solicit critiques on your proposal.

Don’t get discouraged by rejection, the Kaninjing advises. Take heed to what reviewers find encouraging or positive about your proposal, he says. If their feedback doesn’t make sense, another grant might be a better fit. 

“I wouldn’t encourage anyone who’s not able or willing to submit their work for scrutiny to apply for research funding,” he said. “When grant reviewers give you a reason for their critique, listen to that critique, see if it makes sense, adopt it if it makes sense, and make changes where required... Be willing to take constructive criticism. Reviewers are trying to help you fine tune your ideas.”

Kaninjing identifies grants that match his needs by interacting with funders at conferences and webinars in his field. The Office of Grants & Sponsored Projects (OGSP) also alerts him to grants that might be a good fit. He says the OGSP supports him tremendously with not only finding grants but also with building budgets, reviewing drafts, submitting proposals, and administering sponsored projects.

“During the proposal submission process, there’s many pieces you could miss, and I really count on the OGSP to help me with the administrative pieces. It lets me focus on the science and getting different reviewers to critique my proposal,” Kaninjing said. “They’ve also been really helpful with setting a deadline a week before a proposal is due to make sure we go through all the paperwork. Grants require quite a bit of administrative work, especially federal grants. Thankfully, I’m in a situation where I don’t have to worry about that because I rely on the OGSP to help me.”

The OGSP can help you, too, put all the pieces of your grant proposal together. Contact us at grants@gcsu.edu to get the ball rolling.

Denechia Powell contributed this article to Front Page on behalf of the Office of Grants & Sponsored Projects.