A Medical Science Educator Article Review From Dr. Anna Blenda

This month the IAMSE publications committee review is taken from the article titled ‘Precision Cancer Medicine: Dynamic Learning of Cancer Biology in a Clinically Meaningful Context’ (02 April 2021) by Catherine Zivanov, Xuanyi Li, Kaustav P. Shah, Lourdes Estrada, William B. Cutrer, Mary Hooks, Vicki Keedy, Kimberly Brown Dahlman. 

The lack of national guidelines and absence of a comprehensive curriculum for undergraduate oncology education in the US, as well as rapidly developing fields of cancer research and personalized cancer medicine, were the driving forces for the development of the Clinical Cancer Medicine Integrated Science Course (ISC) for medical students at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM). This specialized course is one of 16 ISC courses offered during the Immersion Phase (post-clerkship, years 3-4) at VUSM. The main goal of the ISCs is the reinforcement and integration of the basic science into the clinical context. 

The authors describe the organization and various components of the Clinical Cancer Medicine ISC, including specific topics for active and personalized learning, the online platform for course organization, Meet the Expert seminars, case-based learning (CBL), and team-based learning (TBL) activities. Importantly, they included clinical integration components such as patient care experiences, patient interactions, tumor board meetings, and clinical expert assays. 

Of special value are the self-directed course elements, which provided the learners with a tailored approach to achieve their personal course goals considering their residency interests. The personal learning goals were taken into consideration by module directors at the very beginning of the course, which allowed the provision of specific additional resources based on students’ individual needs. Other self-directed course elements were online learning modules, a Burning Question presentation, ‘MythBusters” challenge, as well as an emphasis on primary literature reading and interpretation. In addition, comprehensive competency-based and quantitative assessments of the Clinical Cancer Medicine ISC have been presented and can be easily adopted for similar courses at other medical schools.  

Based on the students’ feedback, including their level of interest and satisfaction, the Clinical Cancer Medicine ISC is a successful example of integrating precision medicine with cancer biology into post-clerkship undergraduate medical education. 

Anna V. Blenda, PhD
Associate Professor 
Department of Biomedical Sciences
University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville
Prisma Health Cancer Institute
Chair, International Association of Medical Science Educators (IAMSE) Publications