Dear Prospective Applicants,
Thank you for your interest in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship program here at the University of Utah and Primary Children's Hospital.
I think that you will find that the global pediatric hematology-oncology community is a very collaborative and collegial group of dedicated and passionate professionals. I welcome you into a truly exciting and continually advancing field of medicine. As a fellowship director, one of my most important goals is to help prospective fellows find the ideal place for them to start their pediatric hematology-oncology career. Whether that ends up being here with us in Utah or at one of the other great programs across the country, please feel free to contact me with any questions or let me know if I can help in any way.
As you travel around, either physically or virtually, looking at various fellowship programs, if your experience is anything like mine was, many of the interviews and much of specific information about the programs may start to blend together. Therefore, I have listed several aspects of our program that I feel are unique and may set us apart from others within each tab on your left. Links to these are also listed out below. They are also things that I see as the strengths of the program that originally drew me here to Utah.
First and most importantly, we are fortunate enough to have a world-class clinical program. As the only tertiary children’s hospital in the entire intermountain west, our catchment area spans six states and thousands of square miles and includes many geographically and culturally diverse urban and rural areas. As such, we diagnose and treat all types of hematologic and oncologic conditions, ranging from the routine to the “case-reportable”. Primary Children’s currently ranks first in the country in terms of annual Children’s Oncology Group (COG) clinical trial enrollees and there is no shortage of interesting and challenging clinical cases.
More important, however, is the optimal care provided for these patients. Over the last 13 years, I have had the pleasure of working with truly incredible administrative staff, nurses, social workers, translators, child life specialists, clinical trials staff, nurse practitioners, trainees and faculty members within our own division. In addition, we benefit from having extremely well-respected colleagues in general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedic oncology, infectious disease, radiology, radiation oncology, palliative care, pathology and others who are so critical to the successful treatment of our patients. I have found that Utah tends to attract top clinicians from all over the world. Working with children who need services from almost every specialty, we, as hematologist/oncologists, benefit greatly from this.
Another strength of the Utah program is the research enterprise. We have the benefit of being part of three major entities that maximize opportunities for research:
1) The Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah is recognized internationally for its contributions to pediatrics research and has excelled at providing research support for trainees in all subspecialties.
2) Primary Children’s Hospital is the pediatric tertiary care center for the Intermountain Healthcare System. Intermountain healthcare has received national recognition as a model system for providing quality care at sustainable costs and maintains robust databases for clinical research and quality improvement studies.
3) The Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is a world-renowned cancer center, which holds Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute and provides outstanding opportunities for research in both the basic science and clinical arenas. The HCI is credited for the discovery of several cancer predisposition genes, including FAP and, along with the University of Utah’s genetics program, is known throughout the world as the premier institution for studying cancer genetics. In addition to having a Nobel Prize winning molecular geneticist, the University of Utah is home to hundreds of researchers focused on studying the predisposition to, the prevention of and the treatment for a variety of childhood and adult cancers. And, importantly, the HCI has a stated mission to make sure those treatments are available to all patients, including those from underserved populations.
Working at the center of these three institutions provides unique opportunities for research. One truly unique resource available for clinical research is the Utah Population Database (UPDB), a powerful tool for population-based research that provides access to information on over 11 million individuals dating back several generations to the 1700’s. It is the only database of its kind in the United States and one of few such resources in the world and includes medical records, demographics, birth records, and death records, which are linked to an extensive set of family pedigrees. This database, along with several other powerful and well supported research cores at the University of Utah and the HCI, have made Utah a destination for cancer researchers from around the globe.
Another very important aspect that stands out about our program is its educational mission. Of course, most of our leaning comes from our patients. In addition, our fellows attend a variety of weekly clinical didactic presentations throughout their fellowship. While there are many, listed below are several of the opportunities for structured education:
- A weekly didactic noon lecture series that covers all major hematologic and oncologic conditions throughout the year
- Weekly Friday morning disease-based tumor boards rotating through solid tumors, neuro-oncology, hematology and hematologic cancers and journal club
- Weekly disease-based team meetings for sarcomas, “blastomas” and rare tumors, leukemia/lymphoma and neuro-oncology
- Regular “Morbidity and Mortality” conferences to review cases with unfavorable outcomes as a learning tool for both fellows and faculty
In addition to clinical education, the University of Utah and the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology fellowship are dedicated to offering education focused on preparing our trainees for a broader academic career. These include, but are not limited to:
- The Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) provides classroom teaching in biostatics, epidemiology, clinical trial design, grant writing, survey development and a variety of elective classes, while providing a mentored research experience in clinical research. The MSCI prepares its trainees for careers in clinical investigation and provides the option of two tracks (Track 1 focuses on the inherited basis of human disease, mechanism-oriented clinical research, and bench-to-bedside translational research while Track 2 emphasizes epidemiology, health services research, population sciences and bedside-to-community translational research).
- UCoPE Utah Certificate of Palliative Educationis a four-day intensive course designed for health care providers who want to improve their generalist palliative care skill.
- The University of Utah Certificate in Personalized Healthharnesses many of the successful educational programs already established at the University of Utah to provide a foundational understanding of the many aspects of personalized health care (PHC).
- The University of Utah Grant Writing Retreat at Deer Valley (Park City)is a unique grant writing “crash-course” which provides one-on-one mentoring from successful grant writers in a beautiful and relaxed setting.
These programs, along with dozens of educational opportunities through the department of Pediatrics, the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah lower campus, speak to the dedication to education here in Utah.
As is the case with many great medical centers, we have seen several exciting changes, which will positively impact the experience of incoming fellows. First, we have a new Chair of Pediatrics, Dr. Angelo Giardino, MD PhD, who recently came to Utah last from Texas Children’s Hospital and who has already shown a great deal of support for the division and its mission. Second, we are also excited to see a renewed commitment from the Huntsman Cancer Institute to focus on pediatric cancer, which has culminated in the completion of the new Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center up at HCI. Third, at Primary Children’s Hospital, we are undergoing a complete renovation of the clinical and administrative spaces for our Pediatric Hematology-Oncology division. This renovation will provide a more functional and updated inpatient and outpatient clinical space and a more pleasant environment for our patients. Lastly, construction is nearly complete on the new Proton Radiation Treatment Center at the HCI, which will open this year. This will not only allow us to provide state-of-the art care for our existing patients, but will draw additional patients from around the country to receive their care here Utah.
Perhaps the hardest thing to know about Utah without visiting is the incredible quality of life it provides. As you probably have heard, we enjoy working in a beautiful setting in a fantastic part of town, right on the campus of the University of Utah. The “resort nature” of the area has made Salt Lake a culturally diverse city with amazing restaurants, bars, micro-breweries, music, indoor and outdoor concerts, professional and college sports, music festivals, film festivals (such as the well-known Sundance Film Festival), theatre and museums. And, of course, it is known throughout the world for its year-round access to outdoor activities right in our backyard, such as downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, boating, running, trail running, rock climbing and more. Living within a few hours of seven national parks (Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef) and dozens of other world-class outdoor destinations is just a bonus.
I will summarize what stands out to me about this program by saying that it has the intimacy and personality of a midsized training program with all the benefits of a large academic institution and nationally-recognized cancer center, which just happens to be in an absolutely incredible place to live. I want to thank you again for your interest in our program and to, again, urge you to call or write with any questions that come up as you jump start your exciting career in pediatric hematology-oncology.
Mark Fluchel, MD (Mark)
University of Utah School of Medicine
Primary Children's Hospital
Office Phone: (801) 662-4740
Cell Phone: (801) 554-7853