Leukemia & Lymphoma Society grant funds study of communication skills education for oncology fellows

A team of UF Health Cancer Center researchers has received a grant from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to study how implementing a new training curriculum can enhance oncology fellows’ skills in communicating about cancer clinical trials. 

(L-R) Carma Bylund, Ph.D., Martina Murphy, M.D., and Stephanie Staras, Ph.D.

Leading the two-year study are Carma Bylund, Ph.D., a professor and associate chair of education in the department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics in the UF College of Medicine; Martina Murphy, M.D., an associate professor in the division of hematology and oncology and program director of the UF Hematology/Oncology Fellowship; and Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., an associate professor and associate chair of faculty development in the department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics. All three are members of the UF Health Cancer Centers’s Cancer Control & Population Sciences research program. 

Formal education on how to talk to patients and their families about clinical trials is often lacking for oncology trainees. The new study will assess the implementation of cancer clinical trial communication skills education at UF and three other hematology/oncology GME programs across the country. The researchers will evaluate the impact of this education on fellows’ ability to effectively discuss cancer clinical trials with patients.

The education will be a mix of didactics along with small-group role playing sessions for more hands-on, active learning of communication skills.

The researchers hope that the curriculum will be easily implemented into hematology/oncology training programs and will objectively increase fellows’ knowledge and comfort, as well as improve their communication skills when discussing cancer clinical trials with patients.

“In the long term, we hope that larger-scale implementation of communication skills training like ours will help reduce provider-level barriers to cancer clinical trial enrollment,” Murphy said. “As oncology clinicians and investigators, we have to meet patients where they are. This includes communicating clearly and in ways so that they can truly understand how and why they may benefit from cancer clinical trials.”

Murphy, who has a wealth of expertise in cancer communication, recently began a new position as medical director of oncology communication strategies and digital innovation at the Cancer Center. In this role, she will provide clinician expertise and strategic direction for the Cancer Center’s communications and marketing efforts, including its social media channels. Murphy will guide the promotion of high-yield scientific and clinical research at the Cancer Center through its digital media channels. 

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