Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death in childhood from medical conditions in the US. Thus, pediatric cancer education is important for pediatricians and family medicine physicians, so that cancer can be diagnosed early, when it is most curable. Cancer research is vital to developing cancer cures. Since 1978, our Pediatric Oncology Education (POE) program has provided knowledge and experience to motivate promising students to consider careers in cancer research and related areas. Particular attention is given to including students from groups under-represented among oncology scientists and clinicians. Program participants are outstanding pre-doctoral biomedical science and health professions students interested in oncology careers. All participants are US citizens or permanent residents who can be at St. Jude either 10 weeks (medical students) or 11 weeks (all others). They are matched with a St. Jude faculty mentor with similar research interests and participate in the mentor's ongoing research program. They attend institutional clinical and basic research conferences, as well as a daily Lunch & Learn series designed specifically for them. They shadow an oncologist and observe in surgery. They give a PowerPoint presentation on their research project in the Lunch & Learn series and submit a project report written in the style of a journal in which their mentor publishes. The POE program is advertised by our web site, by email to over 2500 US university science faculty and cancer researchers at ~600 US universities and research institutions, and by St Jude Academic Programs recruiters at numerous major scientific meetings, including the major under-represented-minority (URM) science student meetings. Each year, ~500 students apply for the program. The 2015 acceptance rate was 11.1% (56 of 506 applicants), and the class average undergraduate GPA was 3.85. Of the 337 participants in 2010-2015, 76 (22.6 %) were URM, and 186 (55.2%) were females. To date, 1997-2014 program participants are co-authors on more than 300 peer-reviewed St. Jude publications. Ongoing assessment and evaluation of the program is provided by pre- and post-experience testing of the student's knowledge of pediatric cancer and related areas, and by post-experience surveys completed by all students and mentors. Experienced cancer educators from prominent cancer centers review the program as on-site consultants. A long-term tracking process is in place. Of the 923 alumni who have finished their academic degree work, 796 (86.2%) hold a doctorate, including 177 (80.8%) of the 219 URM in the cohort. In addition to hundreds of physicians, alumni include 40 PhDs, 17 MD/PhDs, and 2 PharmD/PhDs. Another 22 recent participants are currently in a PhD program, and 15 are in an MD/PhD program. POE alumni include 28 pediatric oncologists, 17 medical oncologists, 26 surgical, radiation, or gynecological/urological oncologists, and 9 medical physicists. PI Suzanne Gronemeyer, PhD is a Margaret Hay Edwards Medalist of the American Association for Cancer Education. Her articles about the program appear in the Journal of Cancer Education.
The Pediatric Oncology Education (POE) Program gives students high quality, contemporary cancer-related research experience, introduces them to the latest pediatric cancer research and treatment, and encourages their pursuit of cancer-related careers.
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