A Global Curriculum for a Global Age

  • Date: 31 Mar 2017

The ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum is a set of common guidelines offering a global perspective of the clinical training required for physicians to qualify as medical oncologists. We talked to the developers, trainers and a trainee about the importance of the curriculum and the recent updates.

The Curriculum Trainee: Mário Fontes e Sousa, Portuguese Institute of Oncology, Porto, Portugal

“All the oncologists I know in Portugal have at least heard of the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum and know that its message and principles guide the formal requirements of the Portuguese medical oncology training programme. As someone who has both used the curriculum and subsequently translated it into Portuguese, I regard it as very special.

I first came across the curriculum as a medical student, when it taught me what medical oncology involves and helped me to make one of the most crucial decisions of my life—to become an oncologist! During my subsequent training, it became a beacon, steering me through the complexities of the area. Structured to allow an organised and rapid understanding of concepts, skills and requirements, I think the curriculum is an incredibly useful tool for medical oncologists and related professionals at all levels, from trainee to specialist. Underpinned by the largest medical oncology societies in the world, authored by leading experts, applicable throughout the globe and written using simple and direct language, it’s difficult for me to single out just one thing that makes the curriculum so significant.

It’s also an ideal way to become involved in ESMO or ASCO activities. The curriculum may be the very first contact many people have with these extraordinary oncology societies and it makes you want to check out the many educational resources, events—particularly the annual meetings—and training opportunities (such as fellowships or preceptorships) they have to offer. There are plenty to choose from and they are a great way to see the principles of the curriculum in action.

In translating the curriculum, my main motivation was to make it even more accessible to everyone in Portuguese-speaking countries. In fact, the extensive reach of the curriculum is highlighted by the fact that has so far been translated into more than ten languages. It should, in my opinion, be regarded by all countries as a necessary tool.”

Global Curriculum

Clockwise from top left: Christian Dittrich, Tanja Cufer, Mário Fontes e Sousa, Gunta Purkalne, Michael P. Kosty, Rossana Berard

The Curriculum Developer: Christian Dittrich, Chair of the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum Working Group; Kaiser Franz Josef-Spital, Vienna and Applied Cancer Research – Institution for Translational Research Vienna

"It is my firm belief that there is no more suitable basis for training medical oncologists than the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum. Compiled by contributors who are not just experts in their field but who are also dedicated university teachers, the curriculum is designed to be practicable in countries around the world and to cover the breadth of the unprecedented recent advances in medical oncology.

The 2016 edition of the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum introduces a range of new features, including stand-alone sections for topics that have undergone a sea change—such as immunotherapy—or which have reached a new level of importance—such as survivorship—and the integration of targeted therapies into the different tumour types. It also mirrors the multidisciplinary approach advocated by ESMO and ASCO. The new template-based format presents learning objective outcomes in a consistent, easy-to-follow fashion.

So what are our next steps? The two most pressing are to introduce the curriculum with an associated log book for assessing progress—which sub-categorises the quality of the outcome requirements into awareness, knowledge and skills and which provides an indication of learning via ‘before and after’ assessments—and to implement the curriculum in the 45 countries in which it has been endorsed by national oncology societies. Beyond this, we want to harmonise the teaching and assessment strategies, starting by screening the suitability of instruments and courses that are already available.

The curriculum represents a tremendous collaborative process. Anyone who has ever been involved in a committee cannot fail to be impressed by the fact that the Working Group managed to keep around 100 opinion leaders on track so that we successfully met the 2016 curriculum edition launch date!"

The Curriculum Developer: Michael P. Kosty, ASCO Representative on the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum Working Group; Scripps Green Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA, USA

"My association with the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum Working Group came about as the result of my being in the right place at the right time and my ongoing involvement with ASCO on issues relevant to those in training. There is no doubt that this curriculum update is a very important endeavour for standardising training worldwide. The challenge lies not so much in defining standards and competencies for medical oncologists, which are fairly similar around the world, but in implementing the curriculum in the face of inter-country differences in resources and training pathways. As an oncologist in the US, I would say that while awareness in the States of the document itself is less than in Europe, when you look at the actual content of US national programmes, it is clear that they are virtually identical to the revised curriculum, highlighting its broad applicability and universal relevance. Having worked with the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum Working Group for over 10 years, I applaud ESMO for recognising the importance of the Global Curriculum, keeping it updated to reflect the many developments in this evolving field—a fundamental requirement if it is to remain relevant—and for making it the living, breathing document that it has become"

The Curriculum Developer: Rossana Berardi, Member of the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum Working Group; Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ospedali Riuniti Ancona, Italy

"I love being involved in the education of young physicians and, backed up by my experience of working with the Pre-Lauream and Post-Lauream Education Working Group of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology (AIOM) for several years, I jumped at the chance to be a member of the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum Working Group. Four years later, I am still enjoying the role. What we are doing ultimately is improving patient care. The well-trained professionals we are producing, schooled in the benefits of multidisciplinary care, will be able to determine the most appropriate therapeutic options for cancer patients. Being part of the Working Group has been a fantastic opportunity to share experiences with experts in education to try to find a common way to approach training across, and outside, Europe."

The Curriculum Trainer: Tanja Cufer, University Clinic Golnik, Medical Faculty Ljubljana, Slovenia

"Slovenia has been using the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum as the basis for its national training programme since the curriculum was first published in 2004. Although we are constantly faced with a shortage of suitably qualified professionals, we are convinced that high international standards are vital for effective training and we are equally sure that the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum is the best way to provide such standards. To date in Slovenia, the curriculum has been used successfully to train 14 medical oncologists whose depth of knowledge will help to improve the management of patients. We are currently working on updating our national programme to be in line with the new 2016 curriculum."

The Curriculum Trainer: Gunta Purkalne, Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital, Riga, Latvia

"Medical oncology became officially designated as a medical specialty in Latvia in 2009. Each year, around two to four new doctors are accepted for oncology residency and can train at one of two universities: my own—Riga Stradins University—or the University of Latvia. Candidates successfully completing the Board exam in their final year are awarded certification from the Association of Medical Oncologists of Latvia and the Latvian Medical Association.

Our five-year residency training programme is based on the ESMO/ASCO Global Curriculum, which has been translated into Latvian and adapted to local requirements. To make sure that the programme reflects current developments in the area, we have just updated it with the 2016 curriculum. Residents and their supervisors are encouraged to record progress to ensure that all sections of the curriculum are completed successfully. Following feedback from our residents, we are going to issue a Log Book in Latvian starting in 2018 which we hope will make this monitoring easier."

Enjoyed the article and would like to read more?

You can get the entire edition by just clicking on the button below:

Download the second edition of ESMO Perspectives

ESMO Perspectives will always be delivered straight to our members' inboxes. If you are not yet an ESMO member (joining is easy and worthwhile - full details here) you can sign up to receive the next edition here.