UArizona Cancer Center Selected to Participate in Summer Internship Program Aimed at Increasing Diversity in Oncology Workforce

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Medical students from the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson will shadow UArizona Cancer Center members to explore oncology career opportunities.

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and UArizona Cancer Center have been selected by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to participate in the inaugural Oncology Summer Internship program for medical students from populations underrepresented in medicine.

The Association of American Medical Colleges defines underrepresented in medicine as “racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population." The National Academy of Medicine has recognized the need to diversify the physician workforce as a way to improve health disparities. While the U.S. population is more than 13% Black and 19% Hispanic or Latino, only 5% of practicing physicians are Black and 5.8% are Hispanic/Latino. American Indians and Alaska Natives make up just 0.4% of the physician workforce in the U.S., according to a 2018 American Medical Association report. An even greater disparity exists in oncology; only 3% of practicing oncologists are Black and only 4.7% are Hispanic or Latino.

Eight UArizona second-year medical students will participate in the Oncology Summer Internship program. The immersive, four-week summer internship features a hybrid curriculum developed by mentoring and education experts serving on the ASCO’s Oncology Summer Internship Advisory Group.
“The year 2020 has highlighted the social inequities and importance of diversifying the medical workforce as we seek to maximize the health outcomes of our marginalized communities,” said Victoria Murrain, DO, vice dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at the College of Medicine – Tucson. “As an institution, the College of Medicine – Tucson is committed to creating an environment where learners thrive as they mature into clinically excellent, culturally humble medical providers. We are excited to partner with the ASCO and host this summer program that will increase the exposure of underrepresented-in-medicine students to oncology as a medical specialty and mentorship opportunities.”
Each day of the program, students will participate in a variety of education, mentoring and networking activities. The ASCO will host virtual education seminars led by national leaders in oncology, and students will shadow UArizona Cancer Center members to see key oncology concepts applied in a clinical setting.

Students will be matched with a virtual ASCO mentor, who will meet with them weekly to provide guidance, answer questions and support their career growth. UArizona Cancer Center faculty and staff will organize networking and social events several times per week so that students can network with local oncology mentors and build connections with their peers.

“Cancer is a devastating disease that causes much suffering. We need physicians from all types of backgrounds helping to reduce and prevent this suffering. The Oncology Summer Institute is one step to developing these physicians,” said Margaret Briehl, PhD, associate director of cancer research career enhancement and related activities. Dr. Briehl is the Cancer Center faculty member who is working with the ASCO to implement the summer program. 

The UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson is one of five medical schools selected to participate in the inaugural program. Additional host schools include: the University of California San Francisco; the University of Pittsburgh; the University of Rochester; and The Ohio State University.

Program application was open to all U.S. medical schools with an oncology department or division. Schools were selected based on the institution’s demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion, ability to implement the program at least through the ASCO-supported term, and number of eligible underrepresented in medicine students who enroll in the program.

“Medical schools participating in the Oncology Summer Internship program have shown that they are committed to doing the work needed to help diversify the oncology workforce to expand opportunities to UIM students and increase equity in cancer care and outcomes,” said ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO. “We hope this program will introduce students to the rewarding field of oncology, along with leaders in the field who can support and cheer for them throughout their career.”

The ASCO represents nearly 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Through research, education, and promotion of high quality and equitable patient care, ASCO works to conquer cancer and create a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy. The Oncology Summer Internship program is supported by Conquer Cancer, The ASCO Foundation. For more information, please visit