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07 Apr 2021

Regions set for boost with SKILLED interns

  • VCCC Alliance
  • MTPConnect

From Ballarat to the border, Bendigo to the Barwon and beyond, Victoria’s regions are set for a welcome boost in their capacity to deliver world-class clinical trials for patients with cancer.

The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre’s prestigious SKILLED internship program – supported by MTPConnect – attracts some of the brightest scientific minds each year, allowing them to gain real-world experience in clinical trials.

The 2021 interns, comprising nine study coordinators and 12 clinical trial assistants have been officially mobilised across both regional and metropolitan sites after completing an intensive two-week orientation at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Eleven interns have been placed regionally, reinforcing the importance of striving for regional parity in cancer outcomes for Victorian patients, and the entire cohort has now commenced a 38-week on-site training program underpinned by a competency framework.

A win-win for regions and interns

Jointly funded by the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and MTPConnect, the SKILLED program’s benefits for Victoria’s cancer sector are two-fold.

Not only does the program offer talented scientists and cancer researchers a pathway into the highly competitive clinical trials field, but crucially it builds capacity in regional hospitals and cancer centres to deliver best-practice clinical trials.

The 2021 SKILLED cohort includes seven post-doctorate level interns – the most of any cohort so far – with the VCCC exploring options to extend the 2022 program to interns from other states.

“It shouldn’t be dependent on where you live”

Arjun Singh Chahal is undertaking a PhD in cancer genetics at the University of Melbourne. His background in basic research has meant he has spent most of his professional life in laboratories, so the internship presented an opportunity for more patient-facing interactions.

Chahal has been placed as a study coordinator at the Border Medical Oncology Research Unit in Albury Wodonga and says his passion for greater equity in cancer care is a driving force for the regional relocation.

“[Access to clinical trials] shouldn’t be dependent on where you live, so being able to go somewhere regional and be involved in the community there and really help everyone out, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for both me and for the community,” Chahal said.

The VCCC is committed to fairer cancer outcomes for all, and we are achieving this by building a future workforce to support the growth of clinical trials in cancer research through theoretical and on-site training.

The SKILLED Clinical Trials Internships program partnership falls under MTPConnect’s $32 million Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) initiative made possible by the Medical Research Future Fund, providing industry experiences and skills development for early and mid-career researchers, clinicians and innovators to develop an industry-ready workforce keeping pace with the demands of a rapidly changing sector. 

The Bringing SKILLED interns to the Regions Project is supported by Victoria State Government Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Image: Clinical trial assistants underwent orientation at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre before joining clinical trial teams statewide.


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