Radiation Oncology Exposure and Mentorship for Under-represented Minority Medical Students
Malcolm Mattes, MD, of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is aiming to develop a more diverse workforce in radiation oncology through an innovative program to introduce African American and Latinx students to the specialty earlier in medical school. Currently, underrepresented minorities (URM) make up only 7% of the radiation oncology workforce compared to 16% of medical school graduates and 30% of the U.S. population. Greater diversity in the radiation oncology workforce can lead to increased access to care in medically underserved communities and higher treatment satisfaction among those patients. Dr. Mattes and his collaborators are seeking to address this disparity in the radiation oncology workforce because it is critical to ensuring that patients from current minority groups have access to the best care possible now and in the future when it is projected that they will make up the majority of the U.S. population.
Dr. Mattes’ team will focus on increasing awareness of the specialty at medical schools with an enrollment of at least 15% URM students that lack an affiliated radiation oncology department or residency program. “I believe a key component to recruiting any student into radiation oncology is ensuring exposure to the specialty in the first place. Only then, once interest in radiation oncology has been inspired, can effective mentoring help shape that student into a strong candidate for a radiation oncology residency position,” says Dr. Mattes.
Dr. Mattes’ team is taking a multifaceted approach and through this program is:
- Building relationships with leaders at the medical schools to determine the best approach for each institution.
- Offering yearly extracurricular presentations by radiation oncologists, and department tours to familiarize medical students with the technology, delivery and workflow of radiation oncology.
- Following up with interested students to facilitate mentoring and research opportunities.
- Working to integrate radiation oncology concepts into medical school curricula.
- Assisting students with applying for summer research opportunities in radiation oncology and providing support as they apply for residency positions.
- Surveying students on the value of each of the educational initiatives and tracking radiation oncology residency applications and matches at the participating medical schools.
Dr. Mattes’ collaborators on the project include nationally recognized experts on developing underrepresented physicians, Maria Soto-Greene, MD, MS-HPeD, and Curtiland Deville, MD. Together they are committed to creating a foundation for an enduring and wide-reaching educational structure to improve diversity in the radiation oncology workforce.