For a student deciding on his or her future career or specialty, an internship provides critical insights into the lives of professionals in that field. he intern develops an awareness of the professional practices, masters skills and methods, and, in the majority of cases, is further encouraged to continue study in that field. Internships in cancer research are increasing vital to the goal of encouraging greater numbers of scientists and clinicians to focus on cancer to meet our growing need as our nation's population ages and cancer's impact on healthcare continues to increase. With sixty-one years of experience, the Roswell Park Summer Research Experience Programs in Oncology and the Cancer Sciences will continue offering summer internships to rising college seniors (10-weeks) and rising second-year medical, dental, and physician assistant students (8-weeks). Its goals are to inform students'decisions regarding clinical and research careers, motivate them to pursue cancer research, and give them essential research and communication skills. Each intern is matched to a physician or scientist, works in the mentor's clinic or lab, explores the demands of the profession and work environment, contributes to the ongoing research or clinical operations, and reports on their results through oral and poster presentations. These internships occur in the unique environment of an NIH-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center where clinical and research operations are tightly interwoven within the fabric of translational research. Interns wil specifically explore the continuum of progress across basic, population, translational, and clinical trial research through faculty presentations and a program of near-peer mentorship between the health profession and college cohort groups. Among the strategies to recruit interns from groups underrepresented among cancer physicians and researchers, an innovative partnership with Howard University (a leading Historically Black College/University) has been established to provide telementorship to sophomore and junior honors students in their Directed Reading courses. Roswell Park faculty, post-doctoral trainees, and graduate students will teleconference with their Howard honors students bi-weekly to discuss primary scientific literature. This pilot pre-internship telementorship program will allow Howard students to arrive at their Roswell Park summer internship having already studied the literature from their mentor's research area. The success of the Summer Research Experience Programs will be measured by the degree to which interns are encouraged to pursue careers involving biomedical research, optimally in the cancer field.
As older Americans are becoming a larger fraction of our nation's population, the impact of diseases such as cancer, which tends to strike later in life, wil likewise increase, thus requiring more cancer healthcare professionals to treat patients and more scientists developing new treatments and cures. Summer internships for college and health professions students are effective in recruiting new generations into professions within the cancer team, and in training them in the clinical and research skills they will need to deliver and improve cancer care. Recruiting minorities into such internships will ensure that our future cancer workforce looks more like the patient populations it serves.