First-Ever Oncology Internship Program Aims to Boost Diversity in Cancer Care Workforce
The University of Rochester has been selected by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) as one of five host schools to participate in the inaugural Oncology Summer Internship (OSI) program for medical students from populations underrepresented in medicine (UIM).
“We are extremely honored to be chosen for this cancer-focused internship,” says Ruth O’Regan, M.D., Chair of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Associate Director for Education and Career Development at Wilmot Cancer Institute. “This exciting endeavor, led here at the University of Rochester by Dr. Carla Casulo, allows us to increase diversity in cancer clinical care and research by encouraging more medical students to consider a career in this rewarding specialty.”
The OSI program is a four-week summer internship for rising second-year UIM students who attend host medical schools. They will participate in the 2021 internship, which will feature a hybrid curriculum developed by mentoring and education experts serving on ASCO’s OSI Advisory Group.
Schools were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion, ability to implement the program at least through the ASCO-supported term, and number of eligible UIM students who enroll in the program.
The medical field in general, and specifically oncology, faces disparities in its work force. Census data shows that while the U.S. population is more than 13% Black and 19% Hispanic or Latino, only 5% of practicing physicians are Black and 5.8% are Hispanic/Latino.
An even greater disparity exists in oncology; only 3% of practicing oncologists are Black and only 4.7% are Hispanic or Latino. Diversifying the physician workforce could help improve health disparities, according to the National Academy of Medicine.
“Recruiting diverse candidates is shown to have a positive impact on patient care,” says Adrienne Morgan, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “The Medical Center’s commitment to diverse and inclusive recruiting is reflected in the URMC Equity and Anti-Racism Action Plan.”
Throughout the summer, ASCO and the University of Rochester will partner to offer a variety of education, mentoring and networking activities. For example, students will participate in ASCO-hosted virtual seminars led by national leaders in oncology and will shadow oncology faculty to see key concepts applied in a clinical setting at the University of Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Institute.
Students will also be matched with a virtual ASCO mentor, who will meet with them weekly to provide guidance, answer questions and support their career growth. UR will organize networking and social events several times per week so students can network with local oncology mentors and build connections with fellow OSI students.
“As we strive to diversify our medical student body, opportunities such as the ASCO summer oncology internship provide remarkable mentored experiences. Students can be part of work that directly impacts their communities and can learn about different environments in medicine,” says Flavia Nobay, M.D., Associate Dean for Admissions at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “This is such a wonderful commitment from Wilmot Cancer Institute to tangibly alter the lens our future medical students will have.”
In addition to the University of Rochester, other participating schools include: The Ohio State University; the University of Arizona Health Sciences College of Medicine – Tucson; the University of California San Francisco (UCSF); and the University of Pittsburgh.
“Medical schools participating in the Oncology Summer Internship program have shown that they are committed to doing the work needed to help diversify the oncology workforce to expand opportunities to UIM students and increase equity in cancer care and outcomes,” said ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO. “We hope this program will introduce students to the rewarding field of oncology, along with leaders in the field who can support and cheer for them throughout their career.”
The internship will start in June and will continue for one month. Students will have a longitudinal experience that aims to show students the actual practice of oncologists and that includes funding to travel to the ASCO Annual meeting in 2022.
“I am looking forward to welcoming this extremely bright and talented inaugural class,” says Carla Casulo, M.D., Assistant Director for Education and Career Development at Wilmot. “Our unique partnership with ASCO will provide exposure to the interdisciplinary field of hematology and oncology, and will broaden much-needed research and mentorship opportunities for these students.”
The Oncology Summer Internship program is supported by Conquer Cancer, The ASCO Foundation. For more information, please visit asco.org/diversity.
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About Wilmot Cancer Institute: UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute is the Finger Lakes region’s leader for cancer care and research. As a component of Strong Memorial Hospital, Wilmot Cancer Institute provides specialty cancer care services at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a network of locations throughout the region. The Institute also includes a team of 100 scientists who investigate many aspects of cancer, with an emphasis on how best to provide precision cancer care. To learn more, visit wilmot.urmc.edu.
About the American Society of Clinical Oncology: Founded in 1964, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (the Society) is committed to the principle that knowledge conquers cancer. Together with the Association for Clinical Oncology, ASCO® represents nearly 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Through research, education, and promotion of high quality and equitable patient care, ASCO works to conquer cancer and create a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy. Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, supports the Society by funding groundbreaking research and education across cancer’s full continuum. Learn more at www.ASCO.org, explore patient education resources at www.Cancer.Net, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.