Oct 15, 2021
ASCO launched a pilot Oncology Summer Internship (OSI) program for 4 weeks in June/July 2021. The OSI program aims to increase diversity in the oncology workforce by introducing medical students from populations underrepresented in medicine to oncology concepts and careers. In collaboration with five US medical schools—The Ohio State University; University of Arizona Health Sciences College of Medicine – Tucson; University of California, San Francisco; University of Pittsburgh; and University of Rochester—ASCO supported 29 rising second-year medical students through daily virtual education sessions with national leaders in medicine, shadowing at their local institutions, virtual mentoring, and networking and social events. Five participants in the OSI share their experience with the program.
ASCO is now accepting applications from US medical schools to host the 2022 Oncology Summer Internship. The application deadline is November 15, 2021, at 11:59 PM (ET). To apply, please visit ASCO’s SurveyMonkey Apply platform, log in with your ASCO.org username and password, and select "ASCO Oncology Summer Internship (Host Application for U.S. Medical Schools Only)."
A Summer I’ll Never Forget
By Natalie Doe
Before entering medical school, I worked as a research assistant at Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Center, and that is where my interest in oncology began. I particularly became interested in clinical trials research and saw firsthand the strides that have been made to treat cancer more effectively through immunotherapy and other forms of medication. However, what stood out to me was the lack of minority patients with cancer who participated in these lifesaving clinical trials. I realized that the lack of trust between minority communities and the health care system, as well as the deficiency of Black and brown physicians within the field of oncology, created a barrier for these patients. This is a problem that I set out to address in my future career.
The ASCO OSI program’s mission to diversify the field of oncology is what encouraged me to apply to this program, and I am so glad that I did! I had an amazing summer experience that further cultivated my interest in oncology and exposed me to areas of oncology that I would not have been aware of otherwise.
Through this program, I was able to shadow oncologists in a wide range of subspecialties. Every physician I followed was happy to teach me about their respective fields, and I loved learning about how they found their way to the field of oncology. I enjoyed shadowing physicians like Julia R. White, MD, and Dayssy Alexandra Diaz Pardo, MD, MS, who encouraged me to consider a career in radiation oncology, a field with which I was unfamiliar. Each oncologist was very supportive, and I gained great advice on preparing to become a competitive residency applicant.
The weekly social activities were a great way to get to know my classmates and network with physicians and residents within the oncology department here at Ohio State University. One of the most memorable experiences was getting a chance to do a 3-mile bike ride with Claire F. Verschraegen, MD, MS, FACP, simulating a mini Pelotonia! It was also great doing activities such as TopGolf and other various outings with the residents and talking to them about the steps they took in medical school to get to the positions they are at today.
I left the OSI program with numerous connections, newfound mentors, and a summer experience that I will never forget. I’m grateful I got the chance to participate in this program and I know I will recommend this program to future students.
A Career-Affirming Experience
By Andres Felipe Diaz
My desire to purse oncology is deeply rooted to my experiences as a bone marrow transplant unit volunteer in Orlando, FL. I was privileged to work with incredible children and their families undergoing cancer treatment, witnessing firsthand the extraordinary strength and resilience necessary to fight pediatric malignancy. My time in the unit moved me deeply and set me on my path to become an oncologist. After many years, I am now blessed with the opportunity to purse a medical education at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson.
During the summer after my first year of medical school, I had the privilege to participate in the inaugural ASCO OSI. This was an invaluable experience that further reinforced my passion for oncology and that allowed me to explore cancer medicine in a unique and intimate way. I was introduced to fantastic mentors and physicians in the field such as Husain Sattar, MD, of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and Allan Pickens, MD, of Emory Healthcare. With them and many other extraordinary professionals, I was able to break down case studies, understand important histopathological findings, and devise pertinent treatment plans for simulated patients. These hands-on interactions were significant because they allowed me to synthesize my prior understanding—stemming from my time in basic cancer research—into a coherent clinical plan.
Beyond the science, the internship also facilitated amazing networking opportunities. During the Virtual Education Sessions, I was able to connect with physicians and scientists eager to share their knowledge and expertise with students. During one memorable encounter, I was able to have a personal Zoom meeting with Marcus Noel, MD, of Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. During our conversation, Dr. Noel shared insight on the importance of enrolling minority and underrepresented populations into research studies as means to improve access to care for underserved populations.
Overall, the ASCO OSI was a career-affirming experience. It served as catalyst for my continued growth as a medical student and junior researcher. More importantly, the internship underscored the fact that working with and for patients with cancer is an incredible privilege and remarkable responsibility. I look forward to my continued involvement with ASCO and in the future, I plan to pay forward the mentorship I received by working with the next generation of medical professionals.
An In-Depth View of the Doctor-Patient Relationship
By Emanuel G. Demissie
The ASCO OSI was one of the most enlightening exposures to any field of medicine I’ve encountered so far. As someone who has participated in a myriad of pre-med enrichment programs focused on increasing minority representation in health care, I can wholeheartedly say that this program was a step above them all. This was particularly evidenced by the OSI’s thorough mentor-mentee matching and invaluable shadowing opportunities.
From the very beginning, it was clear how delicately our program coordinators matched students with their mentors. My mentor, Luis Raez, MD, reflects every aspect of my future career aspirations. His seamless marriage of clinical research, health education, and clinical work offers an excellent model for me to emulate as I move forward in my career. As soon as our initial meeting began, I noticed a sincere sense of welcoming from Dr. Raez as well as a shared passion between us for helping underserved populations. The conversation we had was authentic because I felt as though I could truly be myself and ask questions without fear of judgement. From then on, I knew that I could come to Dr. Raez with questions on any topic, whether personal or professional, and he’d be able to offer excellent advice.
I was able to get an in-depth view of the special relationship oncologists share with their patients during several of my shadowing sessions this summer. In one impactful session, I witnessed Shawn Hervey-Jumper, MD, one of only glioma specialists at the University of California, San Francisco, work tirelessly to assess patients and devise remedies for their ailments. Despite having a busy schedule, Dr. Hervey-Jumper never interrupted any patient and would instead clearly answer their questions, offer reassurance, and ask whether they have additional questions. This resulted in him developing empathetic and compassionate connections with every single patient he saw. I knew then that I wanted to be the same type of caregiver that he clearly is.
I have no doubt that the mentors I connected with this summer as well as the profound exposure to different facets of oncology will leave me with a clear and renewed plan for my future endeavors.
Mr. Demissie is a second-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. Disclosure.
A Heightened Sense of Compassion
By Zainab Balogun
During my 4-week internship with ASCO, I had a multifaceted set of experiences, from shadowing and networking with physicians to participating in educational discussions with a multidisciplinary team of oncologists. During my shadowing experiences, working with a different physician every day didn’t feel like a singular experience; rather, each time I learned from one doctor, I would apply my new knowledge to understand what I was being taught by another doctor. These interactions made it all the more clear how multidisciplinary oncology is as a field. Importantly, it taught me that it wasn’t just cancer the physicians were fighting against, it was the patients they were fighting for. That heightened sense of compassion I observed through the physician’s interactions with their patients is what I want to carry on forward throughout my medical journey.
To highlight a significant learning experience I had, while shadowing a radiation oncologist I was further enlightened by the social determinants of health that could substantially alter the course of treatment for a patient. This patient’s case affected me so much I decided to write an op-ed about it, which was subsequently published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (“U.S. health care system adds anxiety, financial stress”; Sep 7, 2021). Shadowing educated me beyond the science and medicine of disease, it also instilled in me the confidence to call to action social factors that affect patient outcomes.
Beyond clinical activities, I was incredibly grateful to ASCO for pairing me with two wonderful physician mentors: Annie Im, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Abiola Ibraheem, MD, of the University of Chicago Medicine. Not only did my mentors find time to discuss with me my career goals and provide me incredible advice, but they also connected me with other physicians to further guide me in my career path. For example, my mentor at my institution connected me with another oncologist with whom I shared similar research interests. Through that connection, I am currently working with that oncologist to undertake a breast oncology research project.
To say I learned so much from the ASCO OSI would be making light of how much of an impact the internship had on me. I gained more than medical knowledge, I also formed longitudinal connections with various physicians and faculty members. More importantly, I grew more passionate about the field and the patients. It is my hope that this internship continues so it can significantly benefit a new cohort of medical students in the way that benefited me.
Ms. Balogun is a second-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Disclosure.
A New Appreciation for Clinical Oncology
By Joshua D. Arguello, DPT
I received an email congratulating me on my acceptance into the ASCO OSI program, and from then on, I became part of the inaugural class. Prior to my second year of medical school, I remained undecided on which specialty I wanted to pursue for residency. I figured this would be a good way to determine whether any of the specialties in oncology would be a good fit for me as a future physician.
My day usually consisted of morning Virtual Education Sessions followed by shadowing in the afternoon. The morning didactic sessions were an opportunity for me to learn about different cancers and their treatments as well as participate in mock tumor boards. Through these mock tumor boards, I learned how important interdisciplinary patient care is within oncology while also simultaneously learning basic pathophysiology, treatment, and psychosocial factors that are important for optimal patient care. I enjoyed these sessions since they gave me a foundation to rely upon during my shadowing experiences in the afternoon.
We were fortunate to be able to request the areas of oncology we wanted to shadow. I decided that I wanted to see a bit of everything, so my shadowing experiences were split between medical oncology and surgical oncology. During the OSI, I was able to shadow a variety of subspecialists in areas ranging from lymphoma to colorectal to breast surgery. While shadowing, I began to realize how subspecialized the differing fields of oncology are. The surgical subspecialties were hands-on and fast paced, something I immensely enjoyed, while the medical oncology subspecialties were cerebral and involved more conversation. During each experience, I was amazed at how uniquely each subspecialist practiced, yet each were kindred in their mastery at navigating tough conversations with their patients.
Each day during the program was very different, so I appreciated having a more consistent, longitudinal mentor through Petros Grivas, MD, PhD, of the University of Washington, for answering all my questions throughout the program. I also appreciated having more local mentors through Carla Casulo, MD, and Nicole O’Dell, PhD, here at the University of Rochester, who were pivotal in organizing the OSI program for us along with providing us with fun social events. At the conclusion of the OSI, I gained a new appreciation for clinical oncology, and I could definitely see myself caring for patients with cancer in my future career.
Dr. Arguello is a second-year medical student at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Disclosure.
Following their participation in the 2021 OSI pilot program, student participants continue to receive education and career development opportunities from ASCO and will receive a travel stipend to attend the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting.
Institutions interested in participating in the 2022 ASCO OSI program can learn more, apply (log in with your ASCO.org username and password, then select "ASCO Oncology Summer Internship (Host Application for U.S. Medical Schools Only)"), or contact ASCO Professional Development with inquiries.
The OSI is supported by Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation.