Course Schedule

The following is a sample schedule and is subject to change.

Pre-Workshop Orientation

This live session will describe the format of the workshop and review basic logistics and content. Participants will be introduced to Clifton Strengths 34,30 an online tool that assesses strategic thinking, executing, influencing, and building relationships. Participants will be required to complete their personal strengths assessment prior to the workshop. Additionally, the foundation for the ACT framework will be established by introducing values identification, one of the six core processes. The importance values will be discussed with examples that might sustain a research career (e.g., generation of knowledge, lifelong learning, flexibility).

Pre-recorded Elective Lectures
Pre-Lecture 1: Introduction to Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning
This lecture provides a basic primer to natural language processing and its use in research.

Pre-Lecture 2: Introduction to Clinical Regex
This lecture provides an overview of the specific NLP software, Clinical Regex, its development, and its potential applications.

Preparation for workshop:

  • Completion of Gallup’s Clifton Strengths 34, which will be discussed in Lecture 1, and prepare notes on values identification, which will be discussed with goals during the workshop.
  • Read The Art of Communicating by Thich Naht Hahn,which reviews the concept of mindfulness, one of the core processes of ACT, and applies it to communication and work situations.

Day 1: Wednesday

Introduction and Welcome 
The workshop will open with introductions and a brief overview of the three days.

Lecture 1. Strength-Based Leadership
This lecture will review the Clifton Strengths 34 assessments and put the findings into context for leadership. Using specific strengths as examples, Dr. Thomas will illustrate how strengths can be applied to both routine and challenging situations. Teaching to lead with strengths frames the workshop in a positive way that facilitates engagement.

Small Group 1. Introductions and Goals
Each of the small group sessions begins with a “mindfulness at work” exercise. The focus of this session is on personal introductions and discussion of participants’ three SMART goals for the course.


Lecture 2: Resiliency I 
In this session and throughout the workshop, participants will learn skills to accept what is out of their personal control and commit to taking action that enriches both their personal and professional lives. This lecture illustrates how the core processes of ACT can be applied to facing the challenges of a research career and focus more specifically on applying a values lens to a cancer research career. Participants will complete a values identification exercise.

Symposium 1: Collaborative Science
This interview-style symposium highlights essential steps in developing and managing collaborations in oncology and the necessary underlying structures and policies to facilitate such collaborations.


Small Group 2. Works in Progress 
In this session, each participant will present a very brief talk (5 minutes) on their program of research and one research challenge that they are currently facing. Presenting work in a brief, cohesive way is an important skill that can be applied to a variety of situations. While it conveys information to others, it also helps individuals organize a narrative about what has led them to their current situation and what might be the strongest paths forward. Participants receive feedback on their presentation from the co-leaders and group, and all discuss approaches for the challenges identified. The high-level of engagement with each other’s research stimulates potential collaborations among participants after the workshop.

Elective Session 1. Applying Clinical Regex to Research Processes 
This lecture uses a step-by-step approach to illustrate how Clinical Regex can be used for various tasks and processes across different types of research studies.

Elective Lab Session: Clinical Regex Natural Language Processing Lab 
Participants will be divided into two smaller groups, A and B, for a hands-on lab session using the Clinical Regex software. This session includes a live demonstration of the software and a mentored opportunity for participants to apply the software to their own data.

Office Hours: 
Each participant will have an individual meeting with one small group co-leader to clarify and finalize their three SMART goals. Participants may also sign up to meet individually with other faculty for individual meetings.

Day 2: Thursday

Lecture 3. Lessons Learned from Study Section 
This session systematically describes the NIH grant review process with details on the most common weaknesses that oncology grant applications encounter and strategies for addressing them.

Lecture 4. Giving Feedback 
Drs. Tulsky and Thomas will outline a strategy for providing effective feedback. They will use examples and role plays to illustrate what works well and what doesn’t. This lecture is consistently rated the highest in the DFCI Leadership Boot Camp. Concepts from this lecture are reinforced in one of the HBR (Harvard Business Review) 20-Minute Manager set, Giving Effective Feedback, which participants will receive as part of the workshop.

Lecture 5. Balancing Responsibilities 
This session reframes the concept of “balancing” responsibilities as “harmonizing,” with a focus on organizational efficiencies and personal values. Experiential avoidance often emerges when individuals are overwhelmed, and Dr. Safren will illustrate how acceptance and self-as-context, two of the core processes of ACT, can be used as alternatives to experiential avoidance.


Lecture 6 (Track-based) 
Clinical and Supportive Oncology Track: Managing Multi-site Clinical Trials 
This session outlines the necessary components for planning a multi-site study in supportive oncology, such as assessing site capacity, and reviews successful management structures and processes to ensure ongoing site engagement and study completion. 

Cancer Research Management Track: Financial Management of Labs 
This session reviews the basic structure of cancer research lab finances, including expenses, overhead, personnel, and sources of funding, as well as provides a framework for financial oversight, tracking, and planning.

Lecture 7 (Track-based) 
Clinical and Supportive Oncology Track: Recruiting Strategies for Supportive Oncology Studies 
This lecture first reviews common recruiting strategies and their challenges in supportive oncology studies. It then describes a series of practical evidence-based strategies that have been successfully utilized by the MGH Cancer Outcomes Research and Education Program. 

Cancer Research Management Track: Communicating with Teams 
This session reviews the challenges of communicating with teams and offers principles for effective communication with a group. Utilization of different modes of communication (e.g., email versus meetings) will be discussed.

Lecture 8. Mentorship (two versions based on track) 
This lecture will review strategies for successful mentoring, including readiness to mentor and the responsibilities of mentoring. The speakers will discuss assessing mentees’ knowledge and setting clear expectations and goals. They will utilize a “lessons learned” approach to illustrate key points in developing and maintaining productive and rewarding relationships with mentees.


Small Group Session 3: Mentoring Clinic 
This discussion-based session focuses on common scenarios that are encountered by mentors and strategies for navigating them. Although the participants may not have encountered all these situations yet, having some understanding of approaches will help them when they do. This session also includes an experiential exercise related to mentoring that illustrates the ACT concept of cognitive de-fusion, separating oneself from negative, private (emotional, cognitive) experiences.

Elective Session 2: Strategies for Success in Challenging Environments 
This discussion-based session will include strategies to address the following challenges in academic environments: being the only scientist at an institution working in a certain type of research, having minimal institutional support, starting at a place without track records of success, and managing excessive institutional demands.

Office Hours:
Participants will have the option of scheduling individual meetings with workshop faculty.

Day 3: Friday 

Lecture 9. Resiliency II 
This second resiliency lecture will focus on the ACT core process of acceptance and its relationship to committed action. Participants will engage in an experiential exercise and then be given a template for a Committed Action Plan, which will be completed and discussed in Small Group 4.

Small Group 4: Goals (Committed Action Plans) 
Participants will start this session by completing the Committed Action Plan template, integrating their SMART goals with their identified values and articulating a step-by-step plan for achieving those goals and coping with barriers that may emerge. Participants will present their plans to the group for feedback and discussion. Finally, the group will reflect on their experiences and working together.


Lecture 10 (Track-based) 
Supportive-Oncology Track: Multidisciplinary Teams in Supportive Oncology 
This lecture reviews the benefits of multidisciplinary teams and then describes strategies for developing supportive oncology research teams, adding new members, differentiating roles, and maximizing the function of a team. 

Cancer Research Management Track: Managing Personnel Challenges 
This lecture focuses on common challenging personnel scenarios in cancer research outside of managing mentees. A general framework for understanding and responding to these challenges will be provided.

Lecture 11. Building a Diverse and Inclusive Team 
This session will review the influence of biases and prejudices and the value that diverse members bring to a team. She will describe strategies for engaging team members, illustrating successful approaches to teambuilding.

Lecture 12. Navigating the Academic Job Process 
Interviewing for an academic position is an opportunity to contemplate short-term and long-term goals as well as alignment of personal values. This lecture will review the steps involved in academic searches, from applying for a position to negotiating a package. Tips will be provided for each of the steps including from personal experiences.

Individual Feedback Sessions 
Each participant will meet with one of their small group co-leaders. Based on observations from the workshop and the participants’ goals, areas of strength and potential improvement will be identified.

Lecture 13. Research Career Lessons
This lecture summarizes key lessons from the course and provides concrete advice about returning to home institutions to maintain productive oncology research careers within an ACT-framework. Although researchers may not be able to choose what emerges in their path (e.g., doubt, rejection, uncertainty), they can learn how to respond to it.