TITLE: USC/CHLA Summer Oncology Research Fellowship (SORF) Program for medical students
Physician-scientists working in cancer research provide unique insights that are critical for continued advances
in cancer therapy. There is a dire shortage of physician-scientists and their numbers continue to decline. The
Summer Oncology Research Fellowship (SORF) Program at Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck
School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) pro-
vides a unique oncology research experience by immersing outstanding medical students of diverse back-
grounds from across the United States in cancer research through mentored hands-on research projects and a
cutting edge interactive educational curriculum. The goal is to encourage these motivated students to pursue a
medical career that actively involves cancer research. This program, by increasing the number and diversity of
students entering the physician-scientist education pipeline, is designed to address the severe shortage of such
professionals, a shortage that stifles advances in pediatric and adult oncology.
This highly competitive SORF Program has been continuously active for over 40 years, with demand steadily
increasing: 303 students (top 5-20% of applicants) completed the Program since 2001. Of SORF graduates in
the 10 years between 2001-2010, 18% are in oncological specialties and 11% are involved in research, compar-
ing favorably with overall USA medical school graduates (1.98% in oncology, 0.13% in research; AAMC data).
Thus, our Summer Oncology Research Fellowship Program has great potential to enhance the ‘supply’ of stu-
dents who enter the pipeline leading to biomedical careers that will involve active cancer research.
This Multiple-PI R25 proposal seeks support for the SORF Program to bring it to its next level by providing
students with a better understanding of how science is conducted in the 21st century and interesting them in
pursuing careers that involve cutting edge research related to oncology. Program activities include hands-on
individual mentored research projects in adult and pediatric oncology, interactive cancer research-focused edu-
cational activities, professional development in scientific communication, career development activities towards
oncology research, and exposure to other trainees, scientists, physicians, patients and cancer survivors. Other
goals of the program are to increase diversity of participants, provide instruction on responsible conduct of re-
search, and institute short and long term follow-up to obtain feedback and outcomes data on the Program. Thus,
by increasing the ‘inflow’ at the beginning of the pipeline and maintaining long-term contact with participants we
anticipate to strengthen the oncology research workforce.