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UA College of Medicine selected for an internship program

Zi Yang Lai

The University of Arizona College of Medicine — Tucson is located on 1501 N. Campbell Ave. Many medical students see patients at the Banner University Medical Center — Tucson during their four years of school. The photo was taken on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, is the nation’s leading professional organization of oncologists and cancer researchers. As part of ongoing efforts to increase diversity in the field of oncology, ASCO has selected five medical schools to participate in the Oncology Summer Internship program. This program aims to train upcoming second-year medical students underrepresented in medicine. 

Other participating medical schools besides the University of Arizona College of Medicine, include the University of California San Francisco, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Rochester and The Ohio State University.

“Medical schools participating in the [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,” ASCO President Dr. Lori J. Pierce said. “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 program helps address a broader effort by academic medical institutions to diversify the physician workforce. The U.S. population is more than 13% Black and 19% Hispanic or Latino, yet only 5% of practicing physicians are Black and 5.8% are Hispanic or Latino. This disparity is greater in oncology, with only 3% of practicing oncologists identifying as Black and only 4.7% as Hispanic or Latino. 

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“The year 2020 has highlighted the social inequities and importance of diversifying the medical workforce as we seek to maximize the health outcomes of our marginalized communities,” said Dr. Victoria Murrain, vice dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at the College of Medicine – Tucson in the press release. “As an institution, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is committed to creating an environment where learners thrive as they mature into clinically excellent, culturally humble medical providers. We are excited to partner with the ASCO and host this summer program that will increase the exposure of underrepresented-in-medicine students to oncology as a medical specialty and mentorship opportunities.” 

The summer internship is a four-week immersive experience that includes seminars with national leaders in oncology, shadowing opportunities with local oncologists and exposure to cutting-edge cancer research. For networking, each student will be paired with an oncologist to discuss the field, provide professional guidance and address the concerns of balancing a career in medicine with a personal life.

Throughout the program, virtual networking opportunities and social events will be offered so that students can connect with professionals and interact with fellow students. This will allow participants to build personal and professional relationships within their own medical school and across the country. According to ASCO, “student participants will receive a stipend to support their full engagement” in the program as well as a “travel stipend to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting” in 2022.

“As a medical student, I had the opportunity to have comprehensive exposure to the field of oncology, which led me to the fulfilling career I have today,” said Dr. Nadine J. McCleary, chair of ASCO’s Oncology Summer Internship Advisory Group. “Unfortunately, we know that only a small number of UIM medical students have chosen to specialize in oncology. It is up to us to show students how rewarding a career in oncology is, to introduce them to leaders in the field, including leaders who look like them, and to demonstrate how ASCO will support them as they enter training and over the course of their career. We hope this program can help us make progress towards all of those critical goals.” 

The ASCO Oncology Summer Internship was inspired by Harvard Medical School’s Poussaint Pre-matriculation Summer Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This program “was established in 1970 to prepare UIM students for success” in medical school. Presently, “the program has expanded to include coursework, seminars, and clinical shadowing to provide students with a better understanding of career options in oncology.”

The Oncology Summer Internship program was funded by Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation. This global community of oncologists, researchers and caregivers supports groundbreaking research and education in cancer care and discovery.

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