ASTRO’s Committee on Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (CHEDI) has made a strong commitment to improving health care disparities within the oncology community. One cornerstone of improving care delivery is making our workforce more diverse and reflective of the populations we treat. To that end, the ASTRO Minority Fellowship provides exposure to radiation oncology to medical students from diverse backgrounds who are underrepresented in medicine through a structured summer research experience.
Established in 2010, this program selects two students to complete an eight-week, mentored training program at an institution of their choice. Applicants may elect to apply in either a basic science or clinical research track. A $3,500 stipend is provided to each award recipient, as well as an additional $1,000 grant to pay for travel and accommodations for ASTRO’s Annual Meeting, where awardees have the opportunity to present their research.
In 2015, three students were included in the fellowship: Rasidat Adeduntan of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, Maxwell Ofori of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and Oscar Padilla of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.
Padilla spent the summer with his mentor, Kevin Oh, MD, in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital. His project aimed to “assess the feasibility of delivering a simultaneous integrated boost to gross disease in spine radiosurgery using an intensity-modulated radiation therapy planning strategy that provides high local control while minimizing risk of vertebral body fracture." Padilla is currently applying for radiation oncology residency programs and plans to continue doing translational and clinical research. Of his fellowship experience, he says, “In research, small victories matter. The path from hypothesis to publishable results can be fraught with setbacks and unexpected turns, but it is important for students starting out in research to understand this process, stay focused and maintain a positive attitude.”
Ofori completed a project examining nucleophosmin 1 as a rational target for radiosensitization therapy under the guidance of Michael Freeman, PhD, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Ofori plans to spend additional time in the laboratory, possibly taking a year off from medical school to continue his research. Over the summer, he learned the value of patience in scientific endeavors. “There were times that the experiments would not show any results or they would have to be repeated,” he says. “It was important for me to not get discouraged, press forward and wait for results to come back. This fellowship helped me in that regard.”
The application for the 2017 Minority Summer Fellowship Award is available now. The deadline to submit applications is February 10, 2017. For more information, visit www.astro.org/minoritysummerfellowship.