Go “Back to School” This Fall with ASCO University®

Aug 30, 2012

New website and Bookstore showcase e-Learning resources available for oncology professionals at all career levels

For many students, young and old, September means “back to school” and a fresh start for meeting new faculty, signing up for the latest courses, and reconnecting with fellow learners and alumni in a place where formative ideas and experiences transpire. Fortunately, with the help of technology, that learning can now happen anytime, anywhere—there’s never an inconvenient time or place for education.

Nor is continuing education a matter of merely fulfilling a list of requirements. With the oncology profession poised to enter the genomic era at a rapid-learning pace, keeping up with an ever-increasing knowledge base is not just a luxury but a necessity. In support of that philosophy, there is no better time than now for oncology professionals of any career stage to be introduced to or reacquainted with the Society’s “campus of lifelong learning”—ASCO University®.

Recently, ASCO University revamped both its website (university.asco.org) and Bookstore (asco.org/store) to meet the growing demands of the field and to deliver content and resources as quickly and efficiently as possible. The new Bookstore improves user experience and site functionality, and the redesigned website provides a robust search functionality and prominent display of new and featured courses.

Also new is ASCO University members-only content on iTunes U—a mobile learning format designed to provide educational activities to those preferring a format outside of the typical online experience (university.asco.org/e-learning/mobile-learning). This site is different from the public iTunes U page in that it has more course-related video and audio podcasts from various courses on ASCO University, including ASCO Tumor Boards and the Oncology Literature Review series. Related feeds from the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) and the Journal of Oncology Practice as well as Educational Book podcasts are also included.

These updates are more than just a fresh new look—they provide greater opportunities for oncology professionals at all levels to access desired content, anytime, anywhere.

Specialized lifelong learning
ASCO University’s plethora of educational resources includes a variety of self-evaluation courses designed to meet the educational needs of oncology care professionals, including fellows preparing to take the American Board of Internal Medical (ABIM) Medical Oncology exam, experienced oncologists and advanced practice professionals working to maintain their current certification (Maintenance of Certification [MOC]), and others seeking to stay abreast of strategies and therapies for disease management and quality patient care.

Simply put, oncology care professionals at all career stages can benefit fromASCO University.

All of ASCO University’s e-Learning resources address various Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Competencies. Resources related to ABIM Medical Oncology exam preparation, the MOC process, or Continuing Medical Education credit include:

  • ASCO-SEP® Companion Series: These online and mobile selfassessment courses supplement the print version of ASCO-SEP and are designed to identify knowledge gaps in oncology. (Note: These courses are not approved for MOC points.
    • ASCO-SEP, 2nd Edition Online Question Bank: 22 separate self-assessments based on the chapter topics in ASCO-SEP, 2nd Edition. A total of 165 practice questions from the print publication along with detailed answer rationales and links to relevant references, as well as 90 bonus questions, are available. (Note: This product does not include the text from the 2nd Edition print publication.)
    • Interactive Board Reviews: Two two-hour sessions that provide a review of six major tumor types, delivered through a live interactive webinar format. Expert faculty present questions from the ASCO-SEP Companion Series and discuss answers and rationales. The most recent live captures are from fall 2012.
    • Daily Medical Education: A 20-question self-assessment mobile learning course designed to help participants quickly identify gaps in their general oncology knowledge.
    • Topical Review Self Assessments: Various review courses that include multiple-choice self-assessment questions. Course topics include: Biostatistics, Cancer Genetics, Clinical Pharmacology, Gastrointestinal Cancers (Lower GI), Gastrointestinal Cancers (Upper GI), Gynecologic Cancers, Leukemia/ Myelodysplastic Syndrome, Molecular Oncology, and Palliative Care.
  • Maintenance of Certification Courses: Courses that offer the opportunity to submit passing scores to the ABIM for awarding of MOC points in Self-Evaluation of Medical Knowledge. Video testimonials about completing the MOC process are also included.
  • Oncology Literature Reviews: Literature summaries by expert faculty on the following topic areas: breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and lung cancers, as well as lymphoma. These quarterly summaries address papers recently published in JCO, as well as other major journals.
  • ASCO Tumor Boards: Targeted case-based modules prepared and presented by recognized experts, which include case discussion and commentary that focus on common and often perplexing issues that face practicing oncologists. Key reference links and resources useful to patients are also included, along with opportunities for self-assessment.
  • e-Seminars: These monthly presentations summarize key findings from practice-changing scientific studies and report on the important educational discussions presented at ASCO Annual Meetings and thematic symposia. Additional resources can also be found under the “Cancer Topics” section of “e-Learning,” in which course content is organized by tracks.

Matching ASCO University resources with your career needs

Oncology training program directors have different career needs than those of fellows preparing for ABIM certification in Medical Oncology. Similarly, educational materials used by oncologists seeking MOC or those wanting to stay on top of the latest research in the field may not be entirely relevant to or geared toward nonphysician providers, and vice versa.

With ASCO University, users have the freedom to pick and choose whichever individual resources fit their needs. At the same time, the site’s broad scope of material can be used comprehensively to provide users with specific curriculum-level educational paths.

The following professionals at varying career stages reflect on how they have benefited from ASCO University.

Perspective of a fellow

Achala Doraiswamy, MD, of Kaiser Permanente San Diego, was a third-year fellow at Scripps Green Hospital preparing for the Medical Oncology Board exam when she used ASCO University’s resources related to ABIM certification and the ASCO In-Training Exam. As a fellow, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of literature available, she noted. However, that was not her experience with ASCO University.

Specifically, Dr. Doraiswamy used ASCO-SEP as a primary resource for exam preparation, as well as the online ASCO-SEP Companion Series. She also used e-Seminars and the Oncology Literature Reviews and took part in various ASCO Tumor Boards. These resources provided her with easy access to literature and citations. “It helped me reference things instead of having to go back through JCO to find it,” she said.

For Dr. Doraiswamy, the most “salient point” about ASCO University resourcesis that they are specifically geared toward fellows. “They highlight the most important things that we, as fellows, should know. The focused material helps when you’re first beginning to figure out what’s most important for your career path,” she said.

Because many fellowship programs focus on certain blocks of cancer for a given amount of time, Dr. Doraiswamy advised that after each block, fellows then refer to corresponding ASCO Tumor Boards “because it helpssolidify learning and is a great Board review too.”

Finally, ease of navigation and information-gathering are other aspects of ASCO University that Dr. Doraiswamy attributes to her experience. “It didn’t waste my time,” she said, “because when you’re a fellow, you don’t have much time.”

Perspective of an oncologistseeking MOC
Cathy Eng, MD, FACP, of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, believes ASCO University should be the primary resource for those seeking MOC. As an early-career oncologist, she uses ASCO University primarily for her own MOC purposes. Dr. Eng also holds a broader perspective on the subject because she, as a member of the 2011-2012 class of ASCO’s Leadership Development Program, focused with her team on strengthening ASCO’s role in MOC for their interactive learning project.

When asked why oncology professionals enrolled in MOC should consider using ASCO University resources, she said, “As an oncology professional, ASCO is our primary oncology organization. Therefore, when faced with seeking recertification on top of my busy daily practice, I would prefer to visit a website that I am very familiar with using and that will lead me directly to the source of information that I am seeking.”

Furthermore, Dr. Eng explained that as a colorectal cancer specialist, the work done in her field is very narrow. “If you were to test me without having time to prepare for the [MOC] test, honestly I’m going to probably have some difficulties,” she said. “For academicians who tend to be specialized, ASCO University provides a great opportunity for individuals to learn more about and add to their current knowledge base. For people who are general oncologists, it’s also a wonderful site because you can get up-to-date information.”

In terms of aiding her immediate professional needs, ASCO University has allowed her to obtain points needed for her MOC. Dr. Eng also explained how, with upcoming changes to MOC requirements beginning in 2013, using ASCO University will be a great way to maintain self-assessment points, which will be required every two years; 100 points of self-assessment will be required on a five-year cycle.

“From an oncologist’s viewpoint, it can’t hurt to go to the website and take these modules to get extra points, to stay involved in certification,” she said. “There’s no time limit on how long it takes to complete the exam; you can retake the exam at your leisure.”

Perspective of an oncology trainingprogram director
John C. Barrett, MD—Director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Training Program at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU’s) Massey Cancer Center—can attest to the benefits of ASCO University as both an advancedlevel oncology professional and on behalf of the fellows at VCU.

Dr. Barrett explained that ASCO University’sconcept of “progressive education”fits the model of “progressiveresponsibility by fellow-year for theACGME accreditation requirements ofan oncology training program,” and asa result, VCU’s fellowship program hasadopted a similar concept.

Now in VCU’s second year of integratingASCO University resources intoits Hematology/Oncology FellowshipTraining Program, fellows are givenhandouts outlining the program’ssupplemental, self-paced educationalexpectations. First-year fellow requirementsinclude completing select didacticand educational courses from theFocus Under Forty™ series, specificallyon fertility, survivorship, supportivecare, and clinical trials. Fellows arealso required to complete geriatriconcology–related courses. However,they are not required to follow anassigned series; fellows can choosewhichever disease-specific courses aremost relevant to their areas of interest.In addition, fellows are stronglyencouraged to focus on key ASCO-SEPchapters, as well as courses on symptommanagement.

For second-year fellows—in concert with the program curriculum’s expectation of an educational progression of focus from basic symptom and disease management toward second-line disease management and understanding of underlying molecular pathways—Dr. Barrett recommends continued use of ASCO-SEP as a resource while placing greater emphasis on ASCO Tumor Boards, Oncology Literature Reviews, and courses about gene expression and molecular biology.

Finally, as third-year fellows transition to their eventual careers, they are required to complete the Business in Health Care series. In addition, they continue with Oncology Literature Reviews so they can work toward mastery of their field of expertise and develop patterns of lifelong learning they can take with them as they leave the training program.

“The real value of ASCO Universityis it allows people to learn whenthey are open and ready, and it takes the pressure off faculty to cover some of these targeted areas and instead focus on making the most of theirown clinical teaching opportunities,” Dr. Barrett said.

Another added value, he explained, is ASCO University’s ease of documentation to show that a program is in compliance with ACGME requirements. “To me, it is an extra benefit that I can not only get the certificates of completion, but also computer-generated reports to document what the fellows have been exposed to,” Dr. Barrett said.

“My personal advice,” he continued, “is to utilize the resources—make an expectation of the fellows, and also make it an expectation of your institution. The costs are so minimal.”

Finally, according to Dr. Barrett, ASCO University’s resources aren’t reserved just for fellows. “I can personally say it was a lifesaver,” he said in reference to his own MOC work.

Perspective of a nonphysician provider

One of the best aspects of ASCO University is the breadth of resources available to physician assistants, according to Heather M. Hylton, MS, PA-C, Lead Physician Assistant in the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, as well as President of the Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology.

Ms. Hylton explained how ASCO-SEP helps her assess her knowledge base and also identified the Focus Under Forty series as being beneficial in identifying issues unique to a special patient population. In addition, she said, “The symptom management topics help keep me up to date on how to manage issues our patients experience during the course of therapy, which is the ‘bread and butter’ of what we do; the Oncology Literature Reviews help keep me apprised of key papers in my field and other fields; the e-Seminars have been excellent for providing the latest updates on hot topics in the field of oncology; and the tumor-specific courses assist me with gaining more in-depth knowledge in my field.”

The aspect of the site she finds most useful for PAs is the “Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners” link on the homepage, which provides quick access to recommended course selections. Links to recommended courses for other professional interests are also available for practicing oncologists, fellows, practice administrators, and clinical researchers.

Ms. Hylton explained that PAs and other nonphysician providers (NPPs) should consider using ASCO University because “it can be difficult to identify appropriate and cost-effective resources to meet the ongoing educational needs of advanced practice providers. ASCO University provides very high-quality, up-to-date educational resources to help meet these needs.”

Finally, Ms. Hylton recommends that NPPs browse through the many offerings on the ASCO University website: “It’s very organized and user-friendly and is quite easy to find whatever topic or format meets your needs.”

—By Elyse Blye, Senior Editorial Assistant

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