Fellowship Program Overview

The Division of Gynecologic Oncology is an integral part of the University of Virginia Cancer Center. The Cancer Center is part of an elite group of NCI-Designated Clinical Cancer Centers and is directed by Thomas P. Loughran, Jr., MD.

The first year of the Gynecologic Oncology fellowship will be devoted purely to laboratory research, with minimal clinical responsibilities ascribed to the fellow. Fellows have the option to pursue laboratory translational research during or pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH). The decision to join a wet laboratory or obtain an MPH should be made in the months prior to starting fellowship.

Those wishing to participate in a wet laboratory will join Dr. Landen’s lab, unless prior experience or personal preference would make another lab more desirable to the fellow. The Cancer Center has 202 competitively funded investigators organized around the following programmatic themes: Cell Signaling, Metastasis, Invasion and Cell Surfaces, Structural Biology, Genomics, Immunology, and Endocrinology. These investigators are potential scientific mentors for the fellows. For lab fellows, after initial orientation and familiarization with pertinent laboratory techniques, the fellow will develop and execute a laboratory project in conjunction with the laboratory faculty with the expectation that this project will result in a paper, that satisfies the requirements for the fellowship thesis as specified for subspecialty certification. Courses in cancer biology and/or statistics are audited. Continued pursuit of laboratory research during the clinical fellowship years will be encouraged. Collaboration with faculty and subsequent fellows, as well as technicians will allow for continuity of a project over a three-year period. This experience will provide the fellow with the skills necessary to pursue laboratory research as a faculty member.

For those wishing to pursue an MPH, UVA will provide funding for the degree. Coursework is required, and the entire program and thesis must be completed in the first year of fellowship. Multiple avenues of investigation are available, including the mining of national databases, epidemiologic patterns of care studies, disparities research, and quality of life research.

In addition to the primary laboratory or public health research project, fellows are encouraged to develop additional studies of interest. Research mentors within the Division of Gynecologic Oncology are Susan Modesitt, MD for obesity-related cancers, Linda Duska, MD for clinical trials, Leigh Cantrell, MD for minimally invasive surgery (MIS) and education, Kari Ring, MD for high risk inherited familial diseases and immunology, and Chip Landen, MD for laboratory investigation of novel therapeutics, chemoresistance, and early detection.

During the two clinical years of fellowship, fellows alternate weekly between working directly with Gyn Oncology faculty in clinic and managing the inpatient service/operating rooms. Clinic fellows are pulled to the operating rooms when there are overlapping cases needing coverage, or for valuable cases such as debulkings, radical hysterectomies, inguinal node dissections, and exenterations. We sometimes work jointly with the GI surgical oncologists or urologists for less common procedures, with the Gyn Oncology fellow serving as the primary assist in these cases. The clinical programs are organized multidisciplinary care teams, divided by cancer site, each with participation by specialists from diagnostic imaging, the specific surgical discipline, radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology, and specialty nurse coordinators. The Division of Gynecologic Oncology routinely recruits the highest percentage patients to clinical trials of any division in the Cancer Center. The Division is a full member of the NRG and Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG), and is approved for Phase I studies of the NRG.

Fellows will be expected to present their work at regional and national meetings. Travel money will be provided by the Gynecologic Oncology division for the fellows to attend scientific meetings for paper presentations and for participation in the program. The meetings will include the annual meetings of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO) and Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG). Fellows will also be encouraged to participate in the Society of Gynecologic Investigation, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Gynecologic Oncology Society.

In order to broaden the experience of the fellows, they will have two formal off-service rotations during the two clinical years. Currently, these rotations are two weeks of Radiation Oncology with Dr. Tim Showalter during the first clinical year, and Pathology with Dr. Anne Mills during the second clinical year.