David R. Gandara, MD, past-president of the IASLC and director of Thoracic Oncology and senior advisor, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCDCCC), has always had a passion for mentorship, largely as a means of giving back to others in appreciation for his own early-career mentorship. Through his activities in the IASLC, he has been engaged long term in support of Latin American members and their development of the Latin American Conference on Lung Cancer (LALCA). For several years, as a logical outgrowth of this interest, Dr. Gandara and his thoracic oncology colleagues at UCDCCC have offered an on-site preceptorship to early-career oncologists from Latin America at the Sacramento, California, campus.
“Because advances are occurring so quickly, there is a continuing need to educate oncologists about advances in screening, diagnosis, and treatment of lung cancer globally,” Dr. Gandara said. “Part of the mission of a National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center is outreach,” added Primo Lara Jr, MD, director of UCDCCC and past chair of the IASLC Education Committee. “We are a tertiary referral center not only for cancer care but for education as well, and we can enhance our global impact by interacting and educating physicians from outside the United States.”
In April 2019, during the last preceptorship, 19 oncologists from throughout Latin America converged at UC Davis to learn about lung cancer screening, diagnosis, and care from a range of UCDCCC experts, including representatives from radiology, pathology, molecular biology, thoracic surgery, pulmonology, medical oncology, and radiation oncology. The 2020 preceptorship, initially scheduled for April 2020, has been postponed for now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Karen Kelly, MD, past member of the IASLC Board of Directors and associate director of Clinical Research at UCDCCC, noted, “Despite recent advances, lung cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death not only in the United States but throughout the world. Events such as this preceptorship play a vital role in jointly discussing the challenges and opportunities of implementing new findings on a worldwide basis.”
During the preceptorship, faculty and attending oncologists follow a rigorous schedule, with scientific lectures and case-based interactive sessions on a range of topics in diagnostics and therapy. The attending oncologists also learn about the expanding role of molecular testing, including liquid biopsy, clinical trial design and conduct, statistical planning, and new treatments such as immunotherapy and targeted therapies.
The preceptor group also has the opportunity to join the multidisciplinary thoracic tumor board in real time, in which specialists at UCDCCC review patient cases with their counterparts at UC Davis Cancer Care Network sites.
During a lunch break following the 2019 tumor board session, attending oncologists from Uruguay said they were impressed at the integrated approach to cancer care at UCDCCC and that they appreciated the interactive teaching methods during their visit.
“This team has a lot of experience,” oncologist Florencia Gari, MD, said. “They are showing us another reality, a new way to work with patients that is interdisciplinary.” Dr. Gari’s colleague, Virginia Rodriguez, MD, added, “These people have so much experience, they are like rock stars to us!”
Dr. Gandara said. “Despite COVID, we are planning a virtual preceptorship either late 2020 or sometime in 2021. We plan on taking full advantage of the virtual technology for this educational purpose.”
“The next preceptorship will occur December 7-9, 2020, said Gandara. “Due to COVID, we have converted the event to virtual, trying to keep it as interactive as possible, with pre-recorded lectures supplemented by live virtual Q&A after each and live panel discussions.”