SIU School of Medicine Launching New Cancer Specialist Training Program

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine is launching a new program to train doctors on how to care for patients with cancer and blood disorders, which officials hope will improve patient access to doctors and experimental treatments.

The university’s oncology-hematology fellowship program is set to begin July 1 in Springfield. Memorial Medical Center and its parent organization, Memorial Health System, are the program’s main financial backers.

The program will enroll two doctors a year who will treat patients at Memorial Medical Center and HSHS St. John’s Hospital over a span of three years, the State Journal-Register reported.

Fellows will help provide the manpower needed to expand clinical trials of new drugs and treatments in Springfield, said Dr. Krishna Rao, a university oncologist and the program’s director. Patients currently have to travel to St. Louis or Chicago for such options.

Rao says Expanding clinical research is important to making progress in cancer treatment.

He says “Curing cancer will not work by just giving a bigger dose of chemotherapy. Even if the patient could tolerate it, it will not work. It will take ‘smarter’ drugs to ultimately cure cancer, and basically newer techniques and thinking ‘out of the box.'”

Officials also hope the program helps attract and retain oncologists in the area, said Dr. Aziz Khan, executive director of the medical school’s Simmons Cancer Institute. He said about 20 percent to 30 percent of doctors stay where they undergo oncology training because of professional and personal connections made during the program.

Khan says “I felt this would secure the future of oncology care for our community.”