Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s new oncology internship program aims to build interest in an ever-growing field.
A new program is helping young students —even before they get to college — learn more about occupations in an expanding field: oncology.
The initiative, Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s new oncology internship program, recently marked the end of its first year. During the pilot program, six high school students from Sarasota Military Academy spent time at the hospital working with staff members in a variety of oncology-related roles.
Three students went through the internship program during the fall semester and three students did the internship during the spring semester.
SMH Oncology Clinical Manager Tamela Fonseca is one of three people who run the program, which also includes SMH Chief Medical Officer and Gynecological Oncologist Dr. James Fiorica and SMH Oncology Educator Barbara Poropat.
Fonseca tells Coffee Talk that during the program, students shadowed staff working in pathology, surgery, research and more. The program offers students the chance to be exposed to a wide range of occupations, she says.
“The main goal overall is to really speak to high school students as they’re trying to make decisions about their future, inspire them in oncology fields and see if that’s something they’re interested in doing so we create future professionals who are dedicated to treating cancer,” Fonseca says.
The program responds to a growing need in Sarasota and across the state for employees in oncology-related positions. “In Florida in general we need to do that,” Fonseca says. “We have a growing cancer population.”
Earlier this year, SMH announced plans to develop a comprehensive cancer program that will involve building on current facilities and services to treat patients with cancer. The Sarasota County Hospital Board, which oversees the nonprofit community health organization, approved a $220 million investment for portions of the program.
The oncology internships aim to bolster that program. This fall, the internships will continue with another batch of students. Of the recent class, Fonseca says, “These students are very engaged and really passionate about what they’re doing and what they’re learning.”