Enhancing the Training Experience at NCI
The importance of nurturing and developing the next generation of cancer researchers simply cannot be overstated. It is a priority that has universal support in the cancer community. The need, I believe, goes beyond replacing or maintaining the current oncology workforce; rather, there must be a very real emphasis placed on doubling this workforce over the next decade. These researchers are needed to translate and deliver on the promise of personalized oncology, working in cross-disciplinary teams and focusing on cancer as part of a biological system, rather than as a disease specific to a particular organ.
With that priority in mind, NCI is establishing the Center for Cancer Training (CCT) to coordinate the Institute's training programs, both intramural and extramural, across all areas of NCI's research. I have appointed Dr. Jonathan Wiest to lead a confederation of training programs that will work across the spectrum of trainees from high school students to researchers and clinician scientists with advanced degrees. A recognized visionary and strong leader of cancer career development programs, Dr. Wiest has, for the past 7 years, been responsible for training in NCI's Center for Cancer Research.
Working alongside NCI training officers, Dr. Wiest will be taking a critical look at scientific discovery in the 21st century, in order to anticipate the future training needs of biomedical researchers. Those requirements may very well change over time, as collaborations across diverse technologies - including mathematics, physics, and engineering - will be essential to future successes in cancer research.
In the near term, CCT will bring together training programs currently housed across NCI divisions, offices, and centers, in order to align programs, streamline operations, improve efficiencies, enhance communication, and identify and implement best practices across NCI's entire research portfolio. This critically important ability is an extension of some of today's successful training efforts. For example, the Joint-Fellowship Program launched by the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force enables cancer researchers to gain greater understanding of the regulatory review process. Another important initiative, the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program trains postdoctoral candidates in the conduct of research in cancer prevention and control.
CCT will also take advantage of NCI's intramural resources, such as career development courses and individual training plans. The goal is to create a coordinated cancer training enterprise that retains the unique missions and resources of each existing program.
I am confident that coordinating intramural and extramural training through the CCT will synergize existing programs and help us foster a dedicated cancer research workforce for the future.
Dr. John E. Niederhuber