TITLE: USC/CHLA Summer Oncology Research Fellowship (SORF) Program for medical students Physician-scientists working in cancer research provide unique insights that are critical for continued advances in cancer therapy. There is a dire shortage of physician-scientists and their numbers continue to decline. The Summer Oncology Research Fellowship (SORF) Program at Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC) and Children?s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) pro- vides a unique oncology research experience by immersing outstanding medical students of diverse back- grounds from across the United States in cancer research through mentored hands-on research projects and a cutting edge interactive educational curriculum. The goal is to encourage these motivated students to pursue a medical career that actively involves cancer research. This program, by increasing the number and diversity of students entering the physician-scientist education pipeline, is designed to address the severe shortage of such professionals, a shortage that stifles advances in pediatric and adult oncology. This highly competitive SORF Program has been continuously active for over 40 years, with demand steadily increasing: 303 students (top 5-20% of applicants) completed the Program since 2001. Of SORF graduates in the 10 years between 2001-2010, 18% are in oncological specialties and 11% are involved in research, compar- ing favorably with overall USA medical school graduates (1.98% in oncology, 0.13% in research; AAMC data). Thus, our Summer Oncology Research Fellowship Program has great potential to enhance the ?supply? of stu- dents who enter the pipeline leading to biomedical careers that will involve active cancer research. This Multiple-PI R25 proposal seeks support for the SORF Program to bring it to its next level by providing students with a better understanding of how science is conducted in the 21st century and interesting them in pursuing careers that involve cutting edge research related to oncology. Program activities include hands-on individual mentored research projects in adult and pediatric oncology, interactive cancer research-focused edu- cational activities, professional development in scientific communication, career development activities towards oncology research, and exposure to other trainees, scientists, physicians, patients and cancer survivors. Other goals of the program are to increase diversity of participants, provide instruction on responsible conduct of re- search, and institute short and long term follow-up to obtain feedback and outcomes data on the Program. Thus, by increasing the ?inflow? at the beginning of the pipeline and maintaining long-term contact with participants we anticipate to strengthen the oncology research workforce.
To advance progress in oncology there is a critical need for talented individuals to pursue careers that involve both medicine and scientific research in oncology and in diverse fields that impact on oncology. The USC/CHLA Summer Oncology Research Fellowship (SORF) Program addresses this need by exposing early-stage medical students from around the United States to an immersive summer research experience in a strong cancer research environment comprising of basic, translational and clinical oncology research, at the NCI-designated Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Southern California and its pediatric arm at Children?s Hospital Los Angeles. A sizeable number of SORF students go on to careers that involve oncology research, thus advancing the understanding of cancer and developing improved therapies.