The overall objective of the program is to train physicians in head and neck oncology for a career that combines laboratory research with clinical practice. This unique Research Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh enables trainees to develop both basic research and clinical skills. Potential trainees are selected from the outstanding pool of candidates that apply to the Residency Program in Otolaryngology. Trainees can select preceptors with research interests that span a variety of disciplines including pharmacology, molecular biology, immunology, and human genetics. Two, 3- month protected research blocks are provided in the PGY-3 and PGY-4 years to allow trainees to rotate through potential training laboratories. The PGY-5 and PGY-6 years are spent entirely in the preceptor's basic science laboratory. During this protected research time, trainees can participate in a formal Research Methodology Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh (formerly K30, now CTSI). Following the second laboratory year, trainees complete their final year of clinical training (PGY-7) that consists primarily of head and neck surgery. To attract the highest quality applicants, trainees pursue a modified clinical training program that allows them to acquire subspecialty head and neck oncology clinical training during the 7-year training period so that additional, clinical fellowship training is not necessary. One new trainee will be admitted to our program each year. Trainees are encouraged to develop their own independent research program as they transition to junior faculty. The ultimate goal is for trainees to establish themselves in as academic environment not only as clinician researchers, but also as translational head and neck scientists.
This program provides an important opportunity for head and neck surgeons to acquire the necessary training to become physician-scientists. Head and neck cancer is a frequently fatal malignancy with few therapeutic options. It is rare for a basic scientist to elect to focus their career on the investigation of head and neck cancer. Clinicians, including otolaryngologists-head and neck surgeons, do not have sufficient training in basic and translational research approaches during the standard residency and/or fellowship to embark on an independent research career. This unique training program takes advantage of the substantial clinical and research resources and at the University of Pittsburgh focused on head and neck cancer. We have demonstrated a successful track record of preparing physicians for academic careers as head and neck oncologists as we continue to refine the training program to take advantage of new opportunities.
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