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Education: Introduction

Annual Report - 2006-2007

Meeting the Education Challenge

By David Berkowitz

The forecast is in — by 2020, there won’t be enough oncologists to care for a graying America. As the U.S. population ages, it’s also growing. And due to successes in early diagnosis and treatment, the number of cancer survivors is increasing. A recent study predicts that the supply of oncologists won’t keep up with the demand for services.
With serious shortages of allied health professionals and nurses expected as well, M. D. Anderson took steps in 2007 to face the challenge. A series of institution-wide education retreats and planning sessions helped focus attention on the issues and steer a path to enhanced cancer education and training.

At the top of the to-do list is strengthening the quality of students and instruction in The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, which M. D. Anderson jointly operates with the UT Health Science Center at Houston. More than 500 students worked on advanced degrees in the 2006-2007 academic year, with 57 Ph.D. and 37 master’s degrees awarded.

A new Graduate Education Committee was formed to enhance the recruitment of top-tier graduate students; to provide a rigorous and productive graduate training environment; and to increase faculty participation in, and recognition for, graduate educational activities.

Nearly 1,000 clinical residents and fellows came to M. D. Anderson in 2007 to receive specialized training in the investigation, prevention and treatment of cancer. In addition, more than 1,400 research fellows were trained in the institution’s laboratories and clinics.

“All of these activities have significant potential to impact our research programs,” says Stephen Tomasovic, Ph.D., senior vice president for academic affairs at M. D. Anderson. “Our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are the primary fuel that runs our research engine. They have great energy, great ideas and interact with our faculty to move our research mission forward.”

M. D. Anderson is increasing the size and scope of its School of Health Sciences, which prepares students for careers in clinical technology. Steps include adding a curriculum for junior-level students and new programs in magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. Of the 82 students who graduated in 2007, 75 received bachelor’s degrees and seven earned certificates. A majority of these graduates have been recruited to jobs at M. D. Anderson.

Formal training programs and academic programs for nurses are rapidly expanding. During the past three years, 209 registered nurses have enrolled in M. D. Anderson’s post-baccalaureate residency program, and 81% of graduates now accept positions at the institution. Other educational programs are equipping nurses to increase their responsibilities and to advance their careers.

Thousands of other individuals participate in continuing education and distance learning opportunities sponsored by M. D. Anderson. In 2007, the institution partnered with Apple Inc. to begin providing educational content through its online iTunes University. Creation of the site is under way, with content expected to go live this spring.

“Our goal is to offer blended learning programs so more individuals can access rich media content through our Internet site and iTunes University, and come to M. D. Anderson only for educational needs that require on-site activity,” Tomasovic says.

With a world view in mind, M. D. Anderson announced formation of the Center for Global Oncology in 2007. The center will focus on developing and maximizing relationships with international partners to deliver education and training programs across the institution’s mission areas to remote locations, to exchange fellows and trainees, and to perform and share results of collaborative research.

Formal affiliations have been established for education and research with 16 sister institutions in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America. In 2007, new sister institution agreements were created with Instituto Nacional de Cancerología in Mexico City and the American University of Beirut.

Closer to home, M. D. Anderson’s educational mission extends to the community, with a special focus on reaching individuals at increased risk for cancer and the medically underserved. Last year, 960,000 people learned about cancer through M. D. Anderson’s Web site, the askMDAnderson phone and online service, health fairs, exhibits, presentations at worksites, schools and civic organizations, and through printed materials.

“It’s been an exciting year for education at M. D. Anderson,” Tomasovic says. “We’re moving on many fronts to ensure that the next generation of health care professionals are armed with the knowledge and skills needed to help people overcome cancer. We’re also educating the public about what they can do to avoid cancer or detect it early.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center