Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the Post-COVID Era through a Radiation Oncology Intensive Shadowing Experience (RISE)

Adv Radiat Oncol. 2020 Sep 22. doi: 10.1016/j.adro.2020.09.006. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, current AAMC guidelines discourage away rotations, posing significant challenges for attracting students to radiation oncology (RO). This is particularly concerning for medical students underrepresented in medicine (UIM) due to the potential of widening existing disparities in applicant and workforce composition. To proactively address this, we created a Radiation Oncology Intensive Shadowing Experience (RISE) to expose UIM students to the field of radiation oncology.

Methods and materials: Key stakeholders within the residency program, including both UIM faculty and residents with experience in health disparities and medical education designed a one-week virtual Radiation Oncology Intensive Shadowing Experience (RISE) intended for fourth year UIM students recruited through established national organizations serving UIM medical students. A one-week disease specific curriculum was developed using four components: 1) foundational exposure to radiation oncology, 2) didactic teaching, 3) mentorship opportunities, and 4) a capstone experience. Mentorship was continuously weaved through the experience by attendings, peer resident mentors and a UIM resident panel to optimize exposure.

Results: RISE was successfully initiated at two academic medical centers with twelve UIM students enrolled through August. Anonymized pre- and post- clerkship surveys were developed for students, residents and faculty involved in RISE to evaluate participants' satisfaction, resident and attending time burden, and perceptions of program effectiveness.

Conclusions: We created a unique virtual RO shadowing experience for UIM students to address a critical gap in exposure to radiation oncology, heightened by the COVID pandemic, with the goal of improving diversity, equity and inclusion in our field.