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“Expanding the fellowship program to include hematology training will grow the fellows’ capability and opportunities for job placement after graduation,” said Omar Alkharabsheh, M.D.

Published Jul 12th, 2023

By Carol McPhail

USA Health, in collaboration with the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine, has expanded the medical oncology fellowship program based out of the Mitchell Cancer Institute to a three-year combined hematology and medical oncology program.

Earlier this year, the Office of Graduate Medical Education received approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) for the expanded program, which began July 1 with four medical oncology fellows transitioning to the hematology and medical oncology program and two new fellows joining the program.

“Expanding the fellowship program to include hematology training will grow the fellows’ capability and opportunities for job placement after graduation,” said Omar Alkharabsheh, M.D., associate professor of clinical oncology and fellowship program director. “Personally, I completed four years of fellowship training in hematology/oncology and advanced hematology. It supported my academic career to lead clinical trials as a principal investigator with the pharmaceutical industry and cooperative groups, and provided me the expertise to mentor young researchers in the field of hematology and oncology.”

For the past five years, USA Health’s medical oncology fellowship program has accepted two applicants annually to the two-year program, which provides training at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute (MCI) and University Hospital in Mobile.

The fellowship incorporates a variety of clinical and research rotations to provide appropriate exposure and training in benign hematology, hematopoietic and solid organ malignancies, different phases of cancer clinical trials, and clinical and translational research. Adding benign hematology to the curriculum provides formal training in noncancerous blood conditions such as bleeding and clotting disorders, anemia, and bone marrow failure syndromes.

“It is important for our fellows in terms of the breadth of their education and future career opportunities,” said Judy V. Blair-Elortegui, M.D., FACP, the designated institutional official for graduate medical education and associate dean for graduate medical education at the Whiddon College of Medicine. “It is also important for patients, because in some areas, it can be difficult to find a physician specializing in hematology.” 

Anita Mazloom, M.D., is a medical oncology fellow transitioning to the expanded program for her third year. “I am excited for the learning and teaching opportunities that will come with the extra year of training,” said Mazloom, who completed her residency at New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College. “I am currently deciding on what specialty I will choose within hematology/oncology. I am excited to explore those opportunities and narrow down my choices in the coming year.” 

Daisy Escobar, M.D., worked in clinical trials at the Mitchell Cancer Institute before medical school at the Whiddon College of Medicine and an internal medicine residency at USA Health. Now she is also transitioning to the expanded program for her third fellowship year. “To see how this program continues to grow and expand is a true testament of the impact that the MCI has,” Escobar said. “I am looking forward to continuing to work with and learn from some truly outstanding physicians who aim to stay at the top of their field.” 

For the 2023 appointment year, 945 applicants competed for 706 positions in 185 hematology and oncology fellowship programs across the U.S., according to data from the National Resident Matching Program’s Specialties Matching Service. 

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