The power of education

Education is vital to the translation of new research evidence into routine clinical practice. Our educational programming meets identified needs in professional development and education, consistent with the aspirations of the cancer workforce and the objectives of the alliance. Over the past financial year, the VCCC Alliance has conducted 140 educational programs with 12,170 people online and 91 in person.

First graduates with cancer sciences specialisation

At the end of 2020, Australia’s first cancer sciences specialists graduated from the VCCC Alliance and University of Melbourne’s Master of Cancer Sciences online postgraduate program. The program is one of only a few cancer-specific online degrees worldwide. Study options ensure students understand the seminal work that has constructed the current biological, treatment, behavioural and societal paradigms in oncology. The teaching team are researchers, clinicians, and educators from the coalface of cancer discovery and care.

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Some of the inaugural graduating cohort of the Master of Cancer Sciences with VCCC Alliance staff.

Beginning with 33 students two years ago, we surpassed 200 enrolled in a Graduate Certificate, Specialist Certificate or Master’s pathway during the 2021 academic year.

The new graduates represent a broad range of disciplines from oncology, surgery, nursing, allied health, pharmacy, dentistry, research, and clinical trials.

"I am primarily a clinician but as my career has progressed, I have become increasingly involved in research. This Masters course has provided me with a much-needed broad understanding of all the essential components of cancer research. The research project that I have just completed will help toward creating a non-invasive liquid biopsy for brain cancer." – Brindha Shivalingam, neurosurgeon

Emerging Topics in Oncology Series

The Masters program has provided stimulus for a further suite of educational programming and the VCCC Alliance and Melbourne School of Professional & Continuous Education (MSPACE) are developing Melbourne MicroCerts (MMCs) on contemporary topics in cancer research and clinical care.

The microcerts are a cancer specific, multidisciplinary, flexible, wholly online short skill-based course targeted at cancer professionals. Aligned to industry and workforce needs, these small, highly accessible courses equip individuals with in-demand skills and knowledge. The Emerging Topics in Oncology series is aimed at health professionals, industry professionals and researchers working in the oncology sector, who wish to upskill and update their knowledge and practical skills in various specialised areas of how to write a clinical trial protocol, how to pitch a commercialisation opportunity to industry, and a guide to interpreting genomics reports for patient care.  

Nurse-led Research Hub central to nursing prowess and profile

A nursing workforce with capacity to generate, use and appraise evidence is fundamental to quality cancer care, improved health outcomes and health service efficiency. The Nurse-led Research Hub proved its effectiveness as a multi-strategy model to build research capability throughout the year, despite the phenomenal challenges wrought by the pandemic on the nursing workforce.

The online communication platform, skills development workshops, 12-week in-depth research training program (Partnership Posts) and support for three multi-site nurse-led projects were significant accomplishments. The ability to share research, workforce, and clinical information among the 232-plus strong nurse community during the pandemic proved vital.

Seven workshops adapted to an online format during the pandemic, ensured nurses had the opportunity to grasp research fundamentals. Fourteen nurses have now completed the Partnership Post program growing research skills in a broad range of areas.

NLR Partnership Post 2020Improvement scores for individual confidence and skill of Partnership Post nurses (n=8)

Three nurses from VCCC Alliance member organisations were awarded funding of $50,000 each to lead a multi-site nurse-led research project and these were completed this year and are to be published in a special issue of the Australian Journal of Cancer Nursing.

Picchi Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research

In 2020 we were once again proud to partner with the Picchi Brothers Foundation to award the Picchi Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research. Three $10,000 prizes went to PhD students from across the Alliance in the categories of basic science, clinical science, and population health. With a decade-long tradition of backing future leaders, the awards acknowledge and support potential world-class researchers as they embark on their careers.

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The winners of the 2020 Picchi Awards, Dr Deborah Meyran and Dr Stefan Bjelosevic, with members of the Picchi Brothers Foundation and VCCC Alliance.

The difference a MOOC makes

Fundamentally, a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC is a digital learning program made up of facilitators, course material and participants. But it is not just an online course: MOOCs focus on collaborative learning.

Participants can network with like-minded participants globally to expand their learning experience. One of the benefits of joining a MOOC is the connections that are established that may continue long after the program has completed. Produced in partnership with the University of Melbourne, the Cancer Survivorship for Primary Care Practitioners MOOC was launched in July 2018 and has run 10 times to over 5000 participants from 165 countries of origin.

Cancer and the Older Person is a new MOOC created this year. Over 1300 participants have joined the two presentations of the course so far.  The educational goal is to fill a gap in the understanding of cancer care for geriatric patients and help health professionals and carers to build confidence and knowledge to care for older people who have been diagnosed with or are undergoing treatment for cancer.