The efficacy of short-term cancer research educational programs in meeting its immediate goals and long-term cancer research career objectives has not been well studied. The purpose of this report is to describe the immediate impact on, and the long-term career outcomes of, 499 medical students and graduate students who completed the Cancer Research Experiences for Students (CaRES) program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) from 1999 to 2013. In summer 2014, all 499 program alumni were located and 96.4 % (481 of 499) agreed to complete a longitudinal tracking survey. About 23 % of CaRES alumni (110 of 499) have published at least one cancer-related paper. Overall 238 cancer-related papers have been published by CaRES alumni, one third of this number being first-authored publications. Nearly 15 % (71 of 481 respondents) reported that their current professional activities include cancer research, primarily clinical research and outcomes research. Of these 71 individuals, 27 (38 %) have completed their training and 44 (62 %) remain in training. Of all respondents, 58 % reported that they administered care to cancer patients and 30 % reported other cancer-related professional responsibilities such as working with a health department or community group on cancer control activities. Of the 410 respondents not currently engaged in cancer research, 118 (29 %) stated intentions to conduct cancer research in the next few years. Nearly all respondents (99.6 %) recommended CaRES to today’s students. Challenging short-term educational cancer research programs for medical students and graduate health professional students can help them refine and solidify their career plans, with many program alumni choosing cancer research careers.