Unique oncology internship uses mentorship and research to train and raise awareness

In 2017, Schulich Medicine oncology residents Drs. Chris Goodman and Tim Nguyen developed a unique internship opportunity for medical students, called the Oncology Research Internship (ORIoN). The initiative aims to expose students to oncology research and raise awareness about the specialty of oncology more generally.

ORIoN brings together medical students and radiation oncology residents, including staff oncologists who provide oversight, and is support by the entire Department of Oncology at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.

We asked Dr. Goodman about the purpose and goals of the initiative and the role it plays in medical education and research.

What is the purpose of the ORIoN initiative?

The purpose of ORIoN is to guide medical students through the process of writing a case report and submitting it for publication. The novel aspect of this initiative is that it connects medical students with resident research supervisors in a mutually beneficial relationship: medical students receive one-to-one coaching and mentorship in completing a research project, while residents receive an opportunity to develop their skills as an effective research supervisor.

Students take the lead at each step of the process, including reviewing patient charts, conducting a literature review, drafting a manuscript, working collaboratively through revisions and preparing the manuscript for submission to a journal. We also arrange for each student to present their completed report to their colleagues and supervisors at a dinner hosted at the conclusion of the program.

Students gain experience delivering an oral presentation and responding to questions in an academic forum, providing practice for an often-overlooked skill set and beneficial preparation for presenting at academic conferences in the future.

What is the goal of ORIoN?

The principal goal of ORIoN is to break down perceived barriers to medical students participating in research projects. To accomplish this, we pair resident mentors with medical students to facilitate drafting and publishing a case report.

Oncology is an academic-oriented specialty where the limit of what research you can pursue is mostly defined by your personal motivation. This means we have ample opportunity to involve students in projects, but what Tim and I identified as a dearth of participation. With both of us having previously gone through the CaRMS process, we were also acutely aware of the anxiety and uncertainty that can arise when attempting to improve the academic portion of your CV.

As a medical student, I found it could be difficult to know where to start when attempting to find opportunities for research projects. Many times the only option for interested students is to reach out blindly to potential supervisors hoping to secure a project.

By developing this structured program, we improve medical student access to research opportunities, allow residents to gain experience mentoring and supervising trainees, and boost the academic productivity of the Department as a whole.

Why is this initiative so important?

This is an important initiative for a variety of reasons. We believe it addresses an underserved need within the medical school curriculum. It is a valuable exercise for residents whose future careers often require supervision and training of medical students and residents. It is also an opportunity to highlight and raise awareness of oncology as a specialty thus attracting a more diverse pool of applicants.

Will the ORIoN Initiative continue?

We plan to continue the initiative annually from approximately May through September. We’ve structured the program so that the on-site requirements can be completed near the end of the medical school year with the remainder of the work completed remotely. This makes it an excellent way to stay academically active over summer break during the first two years of medical school.


Read a recent publication that resulted from the ORIoN initiative, focused on locally advanced cervical cancer in a transgender man. Published in the CMAJ, and authored by Adam Beswick, Mark Corkum and David D’Souza.