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Cancer Communication Research Center
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As a graduate student about to finish up my PhD, career options have been top of mind recently. Most doctoral candidates spend the bulk of their time working within a university setting. It is where we learn to research and find our mentors. Because of the all-consuming nature of graduate studies, it can be difficult to think outside of the ivory tower.

The myriad of career directions available to health communication researchers was made clearer this week as I spent several days observing the inner workings of Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States. I was lucky enough to participate in the first ever Kaiser Permanente Cancer Communication Doctoral Fellows program hosted by the Cancer Communication Research Center in Denver, Colorado.

The fellows spent two mornings shadowing Kaiser Permanente employees who contributed to the organization in a variety of ways. While several of the participating doctoral students were matched with care providers who engaged in patient interaction, I spent my mornings following people primarily responsible for administrative functions and got to see first hand the complexities involved in managing and building communication networks across the organization. Afternoons were reserved for feedback sessions and guest speakers.

Any experience that broadens my vision is welcome and appreciated and the opportunity to see how research can be applied in practice is beneficial to all students, regardless of their discipline or area of academic interest. Several high profile publications have published articles lately on the glut of PhDs flooding the academic job market at a time when tenure track positions are becoming increasingly difficult to come by.

It is heartening to see that the research skills built through countless hours of graduate training can be used to address pressing issues within large organizations. Advancing knowledge in the abstract is an admirable goal, but applying new knowledge to improve practice also has enormous value. I appreciate the opportunity to learn how researchers can contribute outside of the academic world.

Kathleen Stansberry
University of Oregon
2011 CCRC Doctoral Fellow

Written by CCRC at 13:08

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