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Clinical fellows program bolstered by new NCI grant

Nov. 8, 2018, 11:52 AM


by Tom Wilemon

A new grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will fund an intensively mentored training experience for clinical fellows at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for the next five years.

“This grant helps us support budding young stars in medical oncology research,” said W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, who is the project leader of the $1.13 million grant.

W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD

The first two fellows of the Vanderbilt Integrated Molecular Oncology Research Training Program (VIMORTP) are Brianna Nicole Smith, MD, a current pediatric hematology/oncology fellow, and Andrew Sochacki, MD, a current hematology/oncology fellow. The program will support Smith as she pursues an MPH and Sochacki as he pursues an MSCI.

VIMORTP is a two-year mentorship program structured so that every year, one or two fellows will be selected to begin the program.

“We have really been focused on training an excellent group of clinicians who are top tier investigators for a long time, but there is a gap,” Rathmell said. “We do a great job with medical students. We have probably the best program in the country for physician/scientist training that gets people who want to do cutting edge research through residency and into fellowship. This final period, where we teach doctors how to be sub-specialists is also the gap in the training phase where gaining independence as a researcher is critical. This is a grant that directly approaches that phase.”

Vanderbilt mentors will share their knowledge on translational cancer research, tumor immunology, drug development and cancer epidemiology with the fellows.

The goals of the program are:

  • To facilitate training in the fundamentals of discovery and application of research tools in the fellow’s selected area of expertise
  • To provide structured mentoring in communication skills and team building for the future leadership needs in managing research teams
  • To deliver focused training in protocol writing and manuscript preparation
  • To identify and develop trainees who are representative of population diversity

Rathmell said the VIMORTP fellows will also participate in activities with Vanderbilt faculty physicians and researchers who have been selected for the K12 career development program, which is also funded by the NCI to increase the ranks of scientists trained to design and conduct clinical trials.

“This is something that Vanderbilt has been doing very well for a very long time,” she said. “We have had a K12 grant for approaching 20 years. The VIMORTP fellows will benefit from that track record of experience and expertise.”

The VIMORTP program has an external advisory board of established clinician/resear-chers from Emory University, the University of Tennessee and UCLA.

“This grant is very exciting for us,” Rathmell said. “It demonstrates what good talent we already have in this space. It also signals outside of Vanderbilt to individuals considering our training programs that we do an excellent job of preparing our senior level trainees for a successful career in modern oncology research.”

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