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Masterminds - Dr David Kok talks Cancer Sciences

Masterminds - Dr David Kok talks Cancer Sciences

The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre alliance with the University of Melbourne is coordinating a new Master of Cancer Sciences. Enrolments open in November for the exciting, innovative course - which seeks to revolutionise cancer education and is offered for the first time in 2019. 

The VCCC is awarding 20 funded places worth over $ 6,000 each, for students enrolling in the first year.  

Course coordinator Dr David Kok, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre shares his passion for the new educational program with researcher and potential student Helen Sehric. 

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HELEN: I'm excited to learn more about the course David.  Can you tell me about the Masters and who it is aimed at?
DAVID: Absolutely. The Master of Cancer Sciences will be Australia’s first cancer-specific, wholly online postgraduate degree. It’s aimed at cancer professionals across the spectrum, whether they be clinicians, allied health professionals, scientists or clinical trial staff.  In crafting the degree our team had a very clear goal in mind - to ensure that students would walk away with the cutting-edge knowledge to excel in the field, and to do this in a way that is interesting, innovative and flexible enough to be done while still working.

HELEN: It sounds like you set yourselves a high bar. Do you feel you’ve managed to achieve what you set out to do?

DAVID: I’m confident the course will speak for itself. We've really pushed the unique capabilities of the online format to the max, with fully animated presentations, interactive video lectures, webinars and lots of other e-learning tools interspersed throughout every subject. We’re actually delighted with the results, and we’re sure our students will be too.

HELEN: I’ve heard you and others describe the course as unique. What exactly makes it unique?
DAVID: This degree is different to others in that it has been produced in partnership with the VCCC and University of Melbourne. As such, the teaching staff have all been drawn from across the 10 VCCC partners and so we’ve literally had the pick of the brightest, most passionate oncological minds in the business to teach on topics that – in many cases - they pioneered! There have been 120 experts involved already and we are still building content. And that won’t stop.  Year-on-year these people will be here, contributing on the world-stage and being at the forefront of cancer research and treatment.

HELEN: I have a science background but I don’t want to spend my life looking at T-cells; what are the other aspects of the course that might suit me?
DAVID: We knew when designing this course that every student would have different personal and professional interests, and so we have made sure to cater for that. There are 4 core subjects and 13 electives; definitely something in there for everyone! Perhaps you’re more interested in the global impact of cancer – then you could take Cancer in Society. Maybe you’re looking to explore more leadership opportunities in oncology – you could take Leadership in Practice. Or perhaps you want to stay abreast of the latest breakthroughs in cancer treatment – then Cancer Therapeutics is for you.

HELEN: What about for those of us who have an interest in clinical trials? That’s something I’ve personally been interested in exploring, but given my background has been in the lab I wasn’t certain how to transition.
DAVID: Absolutely. If that’s something that interests you that’s excellent, because the clinical trial workforce is a growing area and there is a constant need for smart, dedicated professionals like yourself.  Two subjects that would be relevant here would be ‘Cancer Research’ and ‘Drug Discovery and Development’ which both contained detailed knowledge about the establishment and running of clinical trials. If you put those alongside your science background you’d put yourself in a very strong position.

HELEN: I understand the time commitment for the Masters is 2 years, part-time. What happens if I’m unable to commit to the full course at this point?
DAVID: One of the beauties of this program is that there are multiple shorter study routes you can take should you wish. Let’s say you can only commit to 6 months part-time, then you could do 2 subjects which qualifies you for a Specialist Certificate in Cancer Sciences. Similarly, if you did 4 subjects (12-months) you can exit with a Graduate Certificate. And in the future, should you wish, you could return and finish another 4 subjects to qualify for the Masters degree.

HELEN: It sounds like what I am after.  Where can I find more information and what are the next steps?
DAVID: The University of Melbourne website has some more information and you can register your interest in the course there. 

I’d also encourage you to apply for one of 20 award places being offered by the VCCC. They’re a great opportunity and will cover 50% of fees in the first year. They equate to two free terms and are valued at over $ 6,000 each.

HELEN: Thanks again David. I appreciate your time.
DAVID: Not at all. An absolute pleasure Helen.