Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship

Pediatric Hematology Oncology Fellowship Header

The Spectrum Health/Michigan State University pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship trains physician scientists through an integrated curriculum of excellence in medical care and exceptional research opportunities. Under the leadership of board-certified pediatric hematologists/oncologists, the program offers comprehensive, multidisciplinary specialty care for infants, children, teens and young adults. Care is provided for a wide range of hematologic, coagulation and oncologic disorders on an inpatient, outpatient and/or consultative basis. Services are distinguished by membership in the national Children’s Oncology Group and by a federally funded comprehensive hemophilia treatment center, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Coagulation Disorders Program.

From the Program Director

Thank you for your interest in the Spectrum Health pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship, in partnership with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. I am so pleased that you have taken the time to learn more about our program.

We are a sizable program with more than 180 new oncology patients and more than 400 new non-oncology patients each year. We have an active staff of 11 pediatric oncologists and two bone marrow transplant physicians with a common goal of providing excellent patient care in every encounter. We maintain an active inpatient service. More than 900 patients are seen each month in the clinic for outpatient evaluations, transfusion therapy, chemotherapy administration, laboratory monitoring, and diagnostic consultations and procedures.

As faculty, we strive to create a supportive environment for our fellows to learn and grow. Our program’s philosophy of learning is rooted in the desire to use the latest research and cutting-edge therapies to take exceptional care of patients. Fellows have the opportunity to be the primary hematologist oncologist for many patients with a wide breadth of benign and malignant conditions. In addition, we have daily multidisciplinary conferences and didactic sessions to ensure a comprehensive fellowship education with a goal of ensuring that all educational conferences have direct patient care applications.

The pediatric hematology oncology program has been recognized as a 50 Best Children’s Hospital for cancer by the U.S. News & World Report for nine straight years. In 2020, our FACT accredited bone marrow transplant program was recognized as an “over performer” by the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research. Because of the superb clinical environment, a dynamic educational curriculum, and robust research opportunities, we can provide our fellows with every opportunity to succeed in their careers.

I wish you the very best in your fellowship application process. I dearly love the specialty of pediatric hematology and oncology and am excited about training the next generation of physician scientists. Thank you again for taking the time to learn about us. If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Warmest Regards,

Al Cornelius, MD
Program Director, Pediatric Hematology Oncology Fellowship
Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital/Michigan State University
Clinical Assistant Professor, Pediatrics and Human Development
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

We accept one fellow per year. The 36 months of fellowship training is divided into 15 months of clinical training and 19 months research. Our main goal is to equip fellows with the skills and knowledge to be successful and competent physician-scientists in pediatric hematology and oncology. Additional and more specific goals of the fellowship include:

  • To enable fellows to become expert subspecialists by providing an in-depth experience in the patient care and research arenas
  • To foster critical problem-solving in both clinical and research settings
  • To develop skills in teaching
  • To utilize competency-based principles in the training and evaluation of fellows
  • To help graduates successfully attain American Board of Pediatrics certification in pediatric hematology and oncology, and continue personal development and scholarly activity

Fellows train at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a freestanding 234 bed regional referral center and teaching hospital. It offers advanced pediatric specialty care with more than 300 pediatric physicians who practice in more than 50 pediatric specialties and programs. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is Michigan’s largest neonatal center.  We are the primary center for tertiary pediatric care for over two million patients from the greater Grand Rapids, but our referral base extends into 37 counties. Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is the only site for inpatient pediatric hematology and oncology and stem cell transplantation care for our program. We have outreach clinics twice monthly at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. Our pediatric hematology and oncology program is one of the largest in the Midwest and includes the only pediatric bone marrow and stem cell transplant program on the western side of Michigan.

First Year Fellowship Overview
The first year of fellowship consists of clinical rotations on the inpatient and outpatient hematology/oncology service, the bone marrow transplant service and a clinical hematopathology laboratory experience. Other electives may include: palliative care, radiation oncology, anatomic pathology, blood banking, pediatric radiology, orthopedic oncology, CAR-T cell therapy, pediatric critical care, advanced bone marrow transplantation and bone marrow processing lab. Six weeks of research time are built into the first-year rotations to give fellows time to explore research opportunities and prepare a research proposal by the end of the first year of fellowship training.

During the first year, the fellow will acquire a group of patients for whom he/she has responsibility as the primary hematologist/oncologist. The fellow attends clinic one full day per week, with an emphasis on continuity of care for their primary patients and general experience in pediatric hematology and oncology.

Toward the end of the first year, the fellow will choose either a clinical- or laboratory-based research experience. Those choosing to pursue clinical research will be encouraged to obtain formal training in epidemiology, biostatistics and the conduct of clinical research. Fellows choosing laboratory research will select an investigator at Van Andel Institute, Michigan State University or Spectrum Health as primary research mentor. All fellows will work with a scholarship oversight committee to monitor their research progress.

Sample first year schedule / block rotation:
1 - Inpatient hematology oncology
2 - Outpatient hematology oncology
3 - Inpatient hematology oncology
4 - Research planning (2 weeks), vacation (2 weeks)
5 - Hematopathology laboratory experience
6 - Inpatient hematology oncology
7 - Elective: blood banking (2 weeks), anatomic pathology (2 weeks)
8 - Inpatient hematology oncology
9 - Research planning with written research plan and formation of Scholarship Oversight Committee
10 - Inpatient hematology oncology
11 - Bone marrow transplant
12 - Inpatient hematology oncology
13 - Elective: orthopedic oncology/ palliative care/ radiation oncology/ CAR-T cell therapy

To complement the training received on clinical rotations, fellows are also encouraged to regularly attend scheduled multidisciplinary conferences, journal conferences and lectures given by faculty and invited speakers. The conference schedule includes:
  • Daily: Inpatient and outpatient multidisciplinary team rounds
  • Mondays, 8 to 9 a.m.: Pediatric stem cell transplant conference
  • Tuesdays 7:30 to 8 a.m.: Fellow core lecture
  • Tuesdays 8 to 9 a.m.: Pediatric grand rounds
  • Wednesdays 8 to 9 a.m.: Hematopathology conference
  • Thursdays 7 to 8 a.m.: Quality improvement meeting
  • Thursdays 8 to 9 a.m.: Journal conference
  • Fridays 7:30 to 9 a.m.: Tumor board

Second and Third Year Fellowship Overview
The second and third years of fellowship consist mainly of research, though fellows continue to develop their clinical acumen through continuity clinic and specialty clinic experiences which are detailed below. In the third year, fellows also return to the inpatient service for six weeks to sharpen their leadership skills by directing the multidisciplinary team just prior to their graduation. Further detail on research opportunities for fellows is found under the research tab.
Exposure to and participation in research begins early in the fellowship program. While participating in direct patient care, fellows will learn to evaluate the eligibility of patients for clinical trials, lead consent discussions and follow treatment guidelines.

In addition, fellows have six weeks during the first year exclusively devoted to exploration of several basic science, translational and clinical research opportunities. This time is set aside to allow the fellow to begin thinking about their interests, identify research mentors, and formulate a research proposal.

Fellows are invited to explore the many laboratory research opportunities at the Van Andel Institute and the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, each of which are located adjacent to the hospital. The Van Andel Institute is a private research and education institute founded by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996. Van Andel Institute conducts biomedical research focused on cancer and Parkinson disease with a goal of translating scientific research into clinical applications. Highly motivated fellows may even pursue a PhD in cell and molecular genetics through the Van Andel Institute graduate school in a combined five to six year program with pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship. Alternatively, interested fellows can also find excellent laboratory opportunities at the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, a state-of-the-art six story building which opened in 2017. It features 33 teams with areas of research in pediatric and human development including pediatric cancer; obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology; and translational neuroscience.

Opportunities for clinical research projects at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital are also available. Those choosing to pursue clinical research will be encouraged to obtain formal advanced degree training in epidemiology, biostatistics and the conduct of clinical research through Michigan State University.

While fellows are encouraged to apply for grant funding to support their research, their position, salary and benefits are guaranteed for all three years of fellowship training regardless of grant support.

Examples of Fellow Research Projects
  • Allison Schnepp, MD: Targeting NF1-deficiency and RAS deregulation in osteosarcoma; Research mentor: Matthew Steensma, MD
  • Aditi Bagchi, MD, PhD: Hypermutation in recurrent medulloblastoma, a therapeutic window for immune checkpoint inhibition; Research mentors: Jeff MacKeigan, PhD and Scott Jewel, PhD
  • Jenna Gedminas, MD: Development of a novel therapeutic approach to desmoplastic small round cell tumor, establishing its dependence on EWS-WT1 transcription factor and demonstrating lurbinectedin as an inhibitor of EWS-WT1 in DSRCT; Research Mentor: Patrick Grohar, MD, PhD
  • Rebecca Weicht-Graves, DO: Polyamine biosynthetic pathway in osteosarcoma, a potential therapeutic target; Research Mentor: André S. Bachmann, PhD
  • Prasanth Pillai, DO: Effect of platelet transfusions on hemostasis in pediatric ALL patients receiving PEG-Asparaginase; Research Mentor: Beth Kurt, MD, MS
  • Matthew Pridgeon, MD: Investigating the genomic landscape of NF1-related malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors and potential targeted therapeutic interventions; Research Mentor: Matthew Steensma, MD
  • After-Care and Transition Clinic

    The ACT program at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is dedicated to the well-being of childhood cancer survivors. This comprehensive clinic is held twice monthly and is staffed by a physician, nurse practitioner, nurse and social worker. All patients undergo a thorough review of the original illness and treatment, medical history since completing therapy, current health and updated family history. Diagnostic laboratory and imaging studies are obtained to evaluate for late effects of childhood cancer treatment. General and individualized educational materials and other resources pertaining to late effects of cancer therapy is given to each survivor and their family.

    Comprehensive Coagulation Disorders Program

    The coagulation disorders program provides medical and psychosocial services to infants, children and young adults with hemophilia and related bleeding disorders, and thrombotic disorders. On an annual basis, the program provides comprehensive services to approximately 300 pediatric patients with bleeding disorders and 100 patients with thrombophilia/thrombotic events. The program provides home infusion education and services, comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic evaluations and treatment, anticoagulation monitoring, education, counseling and advocacy.

    The program is supported by federal grants from the Maternal Child Health Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program belongs to a national network of federally-funded hemophilia treatment centers and collaborates with centers across the country and the world to share research and standards of care. A comprehensive hemophilia clinic is offered monthly and includes services from the pediatric hematologist, hemophilia nurse specialists, medical social worker, child psychologist, physical therapist and dental hygienist.

    The program provides outreach services to children in western and northern Michigan, including collaborating with Munson Medical Center to provide comprehensive clinic annually to patients in the northern areas. The program also collaborates with regional and national hemophilia organizations to participate in research and share resources to prevent complications from excessive bleeding and clotting.

    Neuro-Oncology Long-term Follow-up Clinic

    The neuro-oncology long-term follow-up clinic, held once month, is dedicated to prolonging and improving the lives of patients with brain tumors both during and after therapy. Because survivors of brain tumors may have long-term issues, our multidisciplinary clinic is designed to address these problems with one visit.  A pediatric psychologist is present to help with school performance and psychosocial issues and helps patients optimize life skills. A pediatric endocrinologist addresses issues related to growth and other hormonal late effects of therapy. Medical treatment, psychological evaluation, education, counseling, and referral to specialty services are offered. Like the ACT Program, we also provide education about health promotion and disease prevention activities. A complete treatment summary letter, including a problem list and management recommendations, is sent to the primary and consulting physicians.

    Sickle Cell Anemia Comprehensive Care Clinic

    The sickle cell anemia program is dedicated to prolonging and improving the lives of our patients with sickle cell disease. We offer comprehensive medical treatment, psychological evaluation, education, counseling and referral to specialty services for children with this hematologic condition. Overall, we have about 85 active patients, many of whom are treated with hydroxyurea to reduce the frequency of complications such as acute chest syndrome or vaso-occlusive pain events. The multidisciplinary clinic meets once monthly and is staffed by a physician, nurse and social worker.

    Vascular Malformations Clinic

    The vascular malformations clinic, staffed by a physician and advanced practice provider 3 times a month, provides a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach for the diagnosis and treatment of children with vascular anomalies including hemangiomas, venous malformations and lymphatic malformations. In addition, patients can be cared for by a pediatric dermatologist, plastic surgeon, pediatric radiologist and interventional radiologist. The aim of this collaborative team is to offer patients an accurate diagnosis, education about associated syndromes, and treat the many medical issues that accompany vascular anomalies.

    Other Special Programmatic Highlights

    Pediatric Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program

    The blood and bone marrow transplant program at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is the only pediatric program located in West Michigan and is fully FACT accredited for both autologous and allogeneic transplants. It provides potentially life-saving marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood transplants for a variety of malignant and nonmalignant disorders, including immune deficiencies and metabolic diseases. The program boasts recognition as an “over-performer” from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research for excellent transplant outcomes. We participate in the National Marrow Donor Program.

    Hospice of Michigan Pediatric Anchors Programs for Children

    The James B. Fahner Pediatric Hospice Program provides comfort and care to about 30 children annually, who are living with life-limiting conditions. The goal of the program is to work with the child and their family to enhance the child’s quality of life when a cure in unlikely. Hospice of Michigan also offers a Perinatal Program for families anticipating life-threatening conditions for their unborn child, and Compass Support Services for children who meet some but not all criteria for hospice. The Pediatric Anchors Programs provide education, family support and community resources for numerous children each year.

    Children’s Oncology Group

    Helen DeVos Children's Hospital has been a member of the Children’s Oncology Group since the beginning of the pediatric oncology program in 1989. Children Oncology Group (COG) clinical trials define the standard of care for children with cancer. Through the Grand Rapids clinical oncology program, patients at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital have access to over 70 COG clinical trials. Available trials include phase 2 and 3 treatment trials as well as biology, supportive care and epidemiology studies. All newly diagnosed patients are screened for eligibility and enrolled as appropriate. In 2009, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital was one of only eight hospitals nationwide to receive the Trials Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology for its efforts to improve cancer care for children through clinical research. The program was specifically recognized for the large number of patients enrolled in clinical trials.

    Haworth Family Innovative Therapeutics Clinic

    Following a generous endowment gift from Dick and Ethie Haworth in 2011, the Haworth Family Innovative Therapeutics Clinic was established for the treatment of children with relapsed or refractory cancer at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. Children and adolescents from around the world are offered the opportunity to enroll on phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials.

    Beat Childhood Cancer Research Consortium

    Helen DeVos Children's Hospital has been a member of the Beat Childhood Cancer research consortium since its inception. Beat Childhood Cancer, directed by Dr. Giselle Sholler, is an international consortium of over 40 universities and children’s hospitals which offers a worldwide network of pediatric cancer clinical trials. These trials stem from the research of closely collaborating investigators and laboratory programs developing novel therapeutics for neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma, as well as other high-risk malignancies.
    We participate in the National Resident Matching Program and use the Electronic Residency Application Service application process. We require the following information:
    • A completed application/profile
    • At least three letters of recommendation
    • Curriculum vitae
    • Medical school transcript and dean’s letter
    • Personal statement describing career goals and reasons for selecting continued training in pediatric hematology oncology
    • USMLE transcript
    • For international medical graduates, an Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates status report
    For more information on our program, please contact Erin Gifford, program coordinator.
    Spectrum Health provides a comprehensive and very competitive benefits package for our residents, staff and their families. In addition, our program provides educational monies to support your ongoing education. Download our salary and benefits document to learn more.

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      Get to know our fellows

      Our fellows are a diverse group from a variety of backgrounds with unique experiences and interests. We look forward to getting to know you as well!