November 11, 2011

Averting a future oncologist shortage

Providing increased mentorship, research opportunities and a nurturing, intellectual environment during fellowship training may help reduce a projected shortage of academic hematologists and oncologists.

Books and stethoscope

With an anticipated shortage of up to 4,000 oncologists by 2020, retaining hematologists and oncologists in academic medicine is increasingly important. Because of the critical role of academic faculty in driving research and innovation, as well as in training and mentoring future oncologists, a decline in academic hematologists and oncologists could exacerbate the already anticipated shortage.

To identify factors that influence whether hematology-oncology fellows choose academic careers or private practice, Leora Horn, assistant professor of medicine and clinical director of thoracic oncology, and colleagues surveyed hematology-oncology fellows at academic institutions.

In the Oct. 10 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the researchers report that less than half of the surveyed fellows believe a career in academic medicine is important, and approximately 40 percent of fellows graduating from academic institutions entered nonacademic careers. Factors associated with choosing an academic career included mentorship, research opportunities and a nurturing intellectual environment. The results suggest that increased focus on these factors during fellowship training may improve efforts to retain fellows in academic careers.