Weill Cornell Student Wins Prestigious Award from Florida Non-Profit
For one month last fall, Weill Cornell Medical College student Nii Koney experienced first-hand what it's like to be a gynecologic oncologist.
All thanks to a new award from the Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper non-profit organization, based in Palm Beach County, Fl.
Koney, a fourth-year medical student, is one of five medical students out of 11 applicants to receive the inaugural Dr. Robert C. Knapp Medical Student Award, established last year to expose students to gynecologic oncology.
In August and September, Koney received the opportunity to shadow his mentor, Dr. Kevin Holcomb, a gynecologic oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, as he went about his day.
"It gave me an opportunity to work closely with him, see what he does on a day-to-day basis, and get a feel for the profession," Koney said.
He watched how Dr. Holcomb interacted with his patients, providing that personal touch to explain diagnoses or procedures. He scrubbed in during surgeries. And he gleaned insight that he will carry with him in his burgeoning career.
More than 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and 15,000 will succumb to their disease. This insidious disease is called the "whisper killer" because symptoms are so subtle that the cancer usually goes undetected until it is often too late for successful treatment.
Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper was established by Jacquelin T. Liggett, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 2007. The non-profit organization is dedicated to educating women about the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the tools available for diagnosis. The organization's leaders hope this new award ushers in talented doctors to the field who in their careers may pioneer novel therapies or provide innovative clinical care to combat the disease.
The award honors up to five medical students each academic year who have an interest in gynecologic oncology and have an elective between the first or second year or any elective time during their student years thereafter, during which they can shadow a certified gynecologic oncologist. At the completion of the rotation, students report back to the non-profit with summaries of their experiences. Students receive a $3,000 stipend and an additional $2,000 if they present or publish their experiences to a recognized society.
"These exceptional students will be exposed to a wide array of gynecologic oncology practice activities and advanced research experience," said Jennifer McGrath, program administrator for Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper. "With this award, H.O.W. hopes the students will be inspired to consider a career in gynecologic oncology, which may ultimately lead to a cure."
Koney, who started his career as a medicinal chemist prior to medical school, is specializing in radiology. This experience has played a vital role in shaping his research interests as he aims to improve molecular imaging tests in the hopes of catching the disease earlier and impacting patient outcomes.
"Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease that we still know very little about," Koney said. "This experience opened my eyes to the field and allowed me to work with an individual who is on the front lines in this battle. It gave me a perspective on how physicians can make a difference by catching this disease earlier."
The application deadline for Dr. Robert C. Knapp Medical Student Award for the 2012-2013 academic year is June 30. While priority will be given to Floridian medical students, the non-profit is encouraging everyone to apply. For more information about the award and how to apply, visit the Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper's website.