As the population of patients with cancer and survivors grows, physician knowledge of oncology clinical care and research is increasingly important. Despite this patient population growth, medical students and non-oncology physicians report insufficient oncologic and survivorship care training. First-year students at a single US medical school completing a summer research experience were invited to participate in integrated Scholars in Oncology-Associated Research (SOAR) program. SOAR seeks to broaden students' understanding of multidisciplinary and interprofessional oncology clinical care and research. SOAR consists of three components: structured didactics, multidisciplinary tumor board attendance, and interprofessional shadowing. A mixed-methods approach investigated whether student knowledge improved after SOAR. Thirty-three students enrolled in SOAR (20 in 2015, 13 in 2016) and completed pre-assessments. Twenty-five (75.8%) students completed SOAR and post-assessments. Self-reported understanding of clinical (2[2, 3] vs. 4, p < 0.01) and research oncology (2[2, 3] vs. 4, p < 0.01) improved after SOAR. Understanding of individual disciplines also significantly improved. When describing clinical oncology, responses written post-SOAR were more comprehensive, averaging 3.7 themes per response vs. 2.8 on pre-assessments (p = 0.03). There were more references to "survivorship" as a component of oncology on post-assessments (0[0.0%] vs. 7[28.0%], p < 0.01) and "screening/prevention" (2[6.1%] vs. 7[28.0%], p = 0.03). Additionally, students more often described cancer care as a continuum on post-assessments (4[12.1%] vs. 11[44.0%], p = 0.01). A structured didactic and experiential introduction to oncology, SOAR, was successfully piloted. SOAR improved participant understanding of oncology and its distinct clinical and research disciplines. Future work will focus on expanding SOAR into a longitudinal oncology curriculum.
Keywords: Cancer research; Interprofessional; Multidisciplinary; Radiation oncology; Undergraduate medical education.