Mentoring Alaska Native Students in Radiation Oncology
Dan Seible, MD, and his team at the Anchorage Radiation Therapy Center are welcoming Alaska Native students into their community practice to participate in an internship focused on careers in radiation oncology. Alaska Native (AN) people make up about 15% of Alaska’s population but are entirely unrepresented in Alaska’s radiation oncology workforce by available public data and investigator knowledge. Additionally, there are very few AN-identifying medical students, and no recent AN-identifying medical school graduates have chosen to pursue radiation oncology residency. Dr. Seible launched the Alaska Native Internship in Oncology (ANION) program to inspire and guide AN students toward careers in radiation oncology to increase their representation in the cancer care workforce, which could ultimately help address health disparities experienced by AN patients.
One AN high school student and one AN college student were recently selected to be ANION Scholars and began their internships at the Anchorage Radiation Therapy Center, which provides radiation services for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Twice a month, the ANION Scholars visit the clinic to observe and learn about all aspects of the practice and to work on an outreach project of their own that aims to improve cancer care, outcomes or both for Alaska Native patients. Each student has been paired with a radiation oncologist who will serve as their primary mentor for the duration of the internship.
Through the ANION program led by Dr. Seible and supported by ROI, the Scholars are:
- Engaging in an immersive clinical experience where they shadow their radiation oncologist mentor as well as other members of the multi-disciplinary team including medical physics, radiation therapy, nursing, dosimetry, and practice administration.
- Building relationships with their radiation oncologist mentor, other health care professionals, and peers to facilitate navigation of the education pipeline to radiation oncology careers.
- Conducting a mentored independent clinical quality improvement project focused on enhancing oncology care for Alaska Native patients, which they will present at the local Tribal Youth Symposium.
The ANION program is the first oncology-based educational outreach program specifically serving Alaska Native students. Dr. Seible and his team are passionate about helping Alaska Native students pursue careers in radiation oncology with a goal to eventually expand the ANION program to geographically isolated village communities and regional care centers. Helping achieve Alaska Native representation in the radiation oncology workforce will hopefully serve as a step forward in achieving better cancer care and outcomes for the AN community.
"I’m excited to be an ANION Scholar because I get to help shape the way Alaskan Native peoples are cared for and made to feel more comfortable. The ANION program is showing me how many different roles there are in medicine, and that there are a plethora of options available to me."
~2022-23 High School ANION Scholar
"I am grateful and excited to be an ANION Scholar so that I can see the different career pathways available in Cancer Care. I was raised in Rural Alaska where health care is minimal, and my Dad got cancer when I was twelve. When we had to leave the village to come to the bigger city, I did not see very many Alaska Natives in the health care system. Ever since that time I have wanted to be in the health care setting, serving my Native community members.”
~2022-23 College ANION Scholar