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Neuro-Oncology Fellowship Program Guides Future Leaders

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In an effort to advance the care and treatment of those living with a brain or spine tumor, the National Institutes of Health’s Neuro-Oncology Branch and Johns Hopkins University created a joint Neuro-Oncology Fellowship Program to train the next generation of physician scientists. This fellowship program provides specialized clinical and research training.

Mark Gilbert, M.D., chief of the Neuro-Oncology Branch is a co-director of the fellowship program with Matthias Holdhoff, M.D., Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins University. They are joined by Terri Armstrong, Ph.D.,deputy chief of the Neuro-Oncology Branch and Jaishri Blakely, M.D., John Laterra, M.D., Ph.D., and Stuart Grossman, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University in overseeing the fellowship program. “The fellowship program was created to train physicians who have an interest in the subspeciality of neuro-oncology and who are also focused on pursuing research in this field,” shares Dr. Gilbert.

The goal of the fellowship program is to prepare physicians for successful research careers in neuro-oncology. The fellowship involves one year of clinical training and two years of research training. Fellows are also required to complete formal course work in pharmacology and clinical research methodology, career development activities, and attend conferences.

Each trainee is immersed within multidisciplinary teams at the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University with formal rotations with neurosurgeons, medical and pediatric oncologists, neurologists, radiation therapists, and neuropathologists. Fellows assist in the care and management of more than 2,000 brain or spinal cord tumor patients who are seen each year in our Neuro-Oncology Clinic at NIH.

“It is unique to have the opportunity to train at two of the top research institutions in the world. This program prides itself on individualizing the program curriculum for each fellow and their career goals,” explains Dr. Gilbert.

This program enables those interested in to qualify for the neuro-oncology board examination, but it also provides two years of training in clinical, translational, or laboratory basic research. Trainees help to develop and implement clinical trials for adult brain and spine tumor patients.  Fellows gain valuable experience in data analysis and manuscript preparation.

“People who aspire to engage in research need a combined training experience. Our fellows develop expertise in clinical practice, which is mandatory for all neuro-oncologists, in addition to research experience that they can build on during their career,” says Dr. Gilbert.

Current Neuro-Oncology Fellows

Edina Komlodi-Pasztor, M.D., Ph.D., and Sushant Puri, M.D., recently joined the Neuro-Oncology Branch as a fellow in this program. Dr. Komlodi-Pasztor became interested in oncology during her Ph.D. studies when she was involved in basic research related to cancer treatment. “After my neurology training, I was looking for a fellowship training program that matches my background in both clinical work and research,” shares Dr. Komlodi-Pasztor.

Throughout the fellowship program, Dr. Komlodi-Pasztor and Dr. Sushant Puri receive strong mentorship and guidance from colleagues at both the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University. “I am excited about the wide range of research opportunities that the program offers and intellectual freedom to choose your area of interest,” says Dr. Koblodi-Pasztor. “This is a unique program that incorporates two institutions - an academic hospital and a government institute. As a result, you have a view on these two separate models of patient care, in addition to two years of research, that lays the foundation for a prolific academic career.”

"I am really excited about diving deep into neuro-oncology and taking ownership of my patients. The training I am receiving will prepare me for my career aspirations as a physician-researcher, and I could not have asked for a better group of people around me," says Dr. Puri.

“It is our expectation that graduates of this program will want to stay in an academic environment to continue their research, in addition to providing patient care. We hope our graduates will be part of the next generation of leaders in the field of neuro-oncology,” says Dr. Gilbert.