National Breast Cancer Coalition

Project LEAD Institute Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to a number of commonly asked questions regarding the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s (NBCC) Project LEAD training program. General questions about Project LEAD, including the types of topics that are covered during the training, who the training is intended for, and the ins and outs of the application process are listed in the first section. This section is followed by answers to additional questions about how to prepare for Project LEAD, what to expect during the training, and what comes after the training. If you have other questions not addressed below, please send them to Skye Wilson at

About Project LEAD

What is Project LEAD?

Project LEAD is NBCC’s premier science training program that has created a revolution in the world of breast cancer research and public policy. The Project LEAD Institute provides breast cancer advocates with the education and training they need to understand complex medical and scientific information, the nuances of research methodology, and the unique role advocates play in influencing the research agenda. Project LEAD gives activists the skills to identify what is worth fighting for in breast cancer and the tools to create meaningful change.

What topics are covered in the training?

The Project LEAD Institute covers a broad range of topics related to the science of breast cancer. Lectures are given on basic science and cell biology, genetics, epidemiology, and immunology, as well as clinical trials, screening, systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Advocates will also receive training on how to evaluate scientific information provided in the media and what steps they can take after the course to make their work more effective and impactful.

What is the structure/format of the course?

The Project LEAD Institute is a rigorous, science-heavy, six-day training program taught by outstanding faculty from renowned research and academic institutions. The learning process is both engaging and demanding, using adult learning principles to ensure that students truly grasp complex and often unfamiliar material. The course information is presented through lectures, large and small group discussion, and group activities. Days can be long and the course can be both physically and emotionally challenging, but advocates leave feeling empowered and informed. For an in-depth look at the day-to-day experience of Project LEAD, see the ‘During Project LEAD’ section below.

Who is Project LEAD intended for?

The course is designed for lay advocates who do not have a background in science or oncology. Project LEAD participants should be active advocates who are a part of a breast cancer organization and have an interest in learning the science and concepts of breast cancer. Ideal participants should have a desire to bring NBCC’s mission to end breast cancer to all tables where research and policy decisions are made. They should have an interest in engaging with researchers and the scientific community to ensure the patient’s perspective is considered in their work.

When is it held?

The course is held annually in mid-late July. For 2020, the Project LEAD Institute will be held in La Jolla, CA from July 26 – 31.

How do I apply?

To apply, you must be: 1) currently involved in the activities of a breast cancer organization; 2) a member of NBCC; and 3) dedicated to the mission of NBCC. Applicants must complete a survey detailing their history of advocacy and the reasons for their interest in Project LEAD, as well as how the training will apply to their work. Advocates must also submit two letters of recommendation. Applications for the 2020 Institute are currently open, and will close on April 19, 2020. This year, NBCC has implemented a rolling admissions process, accepting and notifying advocates at the end of each month. For more information, please visit the Project LEAD homepage.

How many people participate in the training?

Each Project LEAD class ranges from 40-50 advocates.

How much does it cost?

Tuition is free for accepted applicants, and includes all meals and course materials. Travel and board are not included. However, scholarship funds are available for those in need.

How can I apply for a scholarship?

Scholarships fall into three categories:

  •       Travel ($300-$500 travel supplement)
  •       Lodging (full stay in a shared room at the course hotel)
  •        Travel and Lodging ($300-$500 plus a shared room)

These scholarships are awarded based on need. You may apply for them via the online application for Project LEAD.

I live outside of the United States. Can I apply to attend?

International advocates are more than welcome to apply to Project LEAD. NBCC values diverse backgrounds and perspectives and believes they enhance the learning environment.

How can I improve my chance of being accepted?

NBCC looks for advocates who are active, engaged, and dedicated to the mission to end breast cancer. Take the time to provide thoughtful, detailed answers about your advocacy experience and how NBCC and Project LEAD will factor into the future of your advocacy. Being a part of Project LEAD does not end at the conclusion of the course. NBCC is looking for advocates who wish to stay involved and become an active part of the Project LEAD network.

When are announcements made about applications?

Through the rolling admissions process, accepted applicants will be notified at end of each month, depending on when they submitted a complete application. All notifications will be made by June 1, 2020. 


Before Project LEAD

If accepted, how do I prepare for Project LEAD?

Before you arrive, you will be assigned a mentor. This person will be present at the Institute and will guide you and a small group of peers through the course and beyond. This mentor (an experienced advocate and Project LEAD graduate) will reach out to you prior to your arrival and answer any questions you may have.  They will provide advice and tips on how to prepare mentally for the challenging course ahead.

Is there homework in advance that I will need to complete?

Yes. Accepted applicants will receive a list of readings about 4-6 weeks prior to the start of the course. These readings include several articles, as well as NBCC background and position statements, and resources on how to read scientific articles. The most important piece of pre-course work is the completion of a 6-hour Cochrane online course on the importance of evidence-based healthcare. These assignments will serve as a primer to the topics covered at Project LEAD.

What if I need to cancel my registration?

If you need to cancel your registration, please contact Skye Wilson, Programs Manager, as soon as possible at

Please note: if you know in advance that you will not be able to attend the training in its entirety, please cancel your reservation so that NBCC can offer your spot to an alternate on our waitlist. Completion of the training in its entirety is a requirement for graduation.

What should I plan to bring with me?

It is recommended that you bring notetaking materials, as well as anything you feel will make you comfortable during the long days of lectures.


During Project LEAD

What is the daily schedule like?

Typically, days begin at about 8am and go to 6:30pm – 7:00pm. Each day will contain several lectures, as well as smaller breakout groups for review and discussion, with multiple short breaks in between.  All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are provided.

What is the dress code?

The dress code is casual. It is important for you to be comfortable during the long sessions.

What will I recieve when I arrive?

When you arrive, you will receive a large binder containing the course materials (participant list, faculty bios, glossaries, etc.) as well as a nametag. Please note the binder can be very heavy and room should be made in your suitcase to accommodate it.

Should I bring a tablet and/or laptop with me?

This is up to you. Some participants prefer to view the course materials and take notes on a laptop, but it is not required.

Will there be time to speak directly with the instructors when I’m at the training?

Yes. Expert faculty will be present throughout the week, at meals, during breaks, as well as during the small group sessions. There will also be a dinner during which the instructors will have the opportunity to discuss their work and answer questions from the advocates.

What does a typical course day look like?

On any given day, the full group will hear several lectures from expert faculty and then break out into small study groups, led by their respective mentors and a scientific expert. With the aid of provided study questions, the groups go through what they have learned in the lectures in order to clarify and synthesize the material. At the end of the week, each group presents on a topic from the course.

Will I have an opportunity to network with anyone else?

Yes. Project LEAD participants come from around the county (and the world) to attend the course. You will be able to get to know other advocates during breaks and mealtimes, as well as interact one-on-one with scientists and researchers.

What if I don't show up for part of the training?

Participants must commit to staying for the full length of the course. There are a limited number of slots available in each Project LEAD class. If you cannot attend the entire course, you are taking the place of an advocate who can. Failure to attend all lectures and activities means you will not graduate.


After Project LEAD

What kind of support can I expect after I attend Project LEAD?

Project LEAD graduates will join a large and passionate network of advocates who are respected and recognized as the best educated and most effective advocates by many stakeholders in the field. They are dedicated, intellectually curious about science, and willing to challenge the existing research agenda and collaborate with scientists.

With the guidance of a mentor, graduates are expected to seek out and participate in breast cancer research and leadership opportunities. They are also expected to work closely with NBCC and other Project LEAD graduates to support NBCC’s mission to end breast cancer through activities including:

-          Scientific literature reviews and analysis

-          Presenting at scientific conferences and meetings

-          Writing articles and commentary

-          Participating in research projects

-          Other opportunities that routinely arise

Graduates will also have the opportunity to receive an ongoing education exclusively for alumni of the Project LEAD Institute. This programming includes live meetings at our annual Advocate Leadership Summit, the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, and exclusive webinars held throughout the year. Graduates will also join the LEADgrads Online Facebook group, a network that provides ongoing support and a forum to exchange ideas with other advocates in the breast cancer community.

After attending Project LEAD, advocates will be ready and able to take a seat at all tables where decisions about breast cancer are made.

How can I become a Project LEAD Mentor?

NBCC welcomes your interest in becoming a Project LEAD Mentor. Mentors play an important role in advancing NBCC’s mission by nurturing and coaching Project LEAD participants during the Institute. They also stay in contact with and support mentees for one year following the Institute. 

NBCC carefully selects advocates for this role who are active, engaged, and dedicated to NBCC’s mission. Individuals selected to serve as Project LEAD Mentors typically meet the following criteria:

         Are Project LEAD graduates.

         Consistently participate in ongoing NBCC activities after Project LEAD (e.g., attend LEAD Casts and regularly attend NBCC’s Annual Summit).

         Are committed to being available to engage, support, and nurture mentees during the Project LEAD Institute and for at least one year following the Institute.

         Actively promote NBCC, its mission, and its educational opportunities to other breast cancer advocates.