March 14, 2022 | by Emeline Beltran

Beyond the Medical Field

When I was diagnosed with leukemia 20 years ago, I felt physically and emotionally safe when receiving treatment from my care team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. They were attentive, kind, and ensured that I was receiving high-quality care. My experience inspired me to pursue a medical career. At the early age of 7, I was determined to become either an oncologist or oncology nurse to take care of the next generations of pediatric oncology patients. 

I was serious about this pursuit until my senior year of high school. When researching college majors and reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses, I realized that I didn’t enjoy science, which is a necessary foundation to all medical careers. The major I was most drawn to was communications because of my strengths in writing, public speaking, and my yearning to connect with new people and places. I didn’t think I could give back to the pediatric cancer community with my skill set, but soon realized there are so many careers and professional opportunities available beyond the medical field. 

This list is not extensive, but here are some general career fields that play an important role in pediatric cancer.

Social Services

There are many jobs inside the hospital that don’t directly involve medicine, but are still important to a child’s cancer trajectory, such as social workers or child life specialists. Some hospitals have enrichment programs specialized for children with cancer, and those would require program coordinators and directors. Healthcare administrators don’t work directly with patients’ treatment plans, but they do use complex organization and time management skills to ensure flow within the hospital. 

Related Majors: Child Development, Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Public Health, Business Administration

Nonprofit Organizations

Instead of profiting off their audiences, nonprofit organizations use funds from donors to provide programming and resources to the communities they serve. There are several nonprofits specializing in pediatric cancer, such as Cancer for College. Nonprofit organizations typically have departments and roles in marketing, communications, administration, and events, but their most important is development, which is their fundraising department. 

Related Majors: Communication, Business Administration, Marketing

Content Creation and Media 

The advancement of technology has enabled content creators to make a career in social media, YouTube, blogging, and more! The options are endless in content creation. You can either be your own brand and post YouTube videos and blog posts about cancer, or you can publish/produce your own books and movies about childhood cancer. While the latter is competitive and a long-term process to make it into the silver screens, we NEED more childhood cancer representation in the media!  You can also start a small business that makes products for pediatric cancer– such as sewn goods or art. 

Related Majors: Art, Journalism, Film

Academia and Research

There are so many unknowns about pediatric cancer. How does the media portray children with cancer? What are the psychological effects of siblings when they visit their sibling at the hospital? How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected leukemia cells? If you want your career to both ask and answer these questions, then consider a career in academia and become a professor. Professors teach college, graduate, and doctoral students; and specialize in a particular subject. Depending on the university they are employed at, academia is a balance of teaching, research, and community/university service. Some universities emphasize one area more than others.

Related Majors: Whichever you’re interested in! To further narrow down your topic, find professors in your university who research pediatric cancer, or anything similar. 

Health Education

If you still have a knack for pursuing a field in health but don’t want patients of your own nor responsibilities with medicine, consider a career as a health educator.  Health educators work at community organizations, universities, school districts, and hospitals to promote healthy habits, disseminate complex health information, and advocate health for all. 

Related Majors: Public Health, Communications

Whether you are conducting research, creating art, or coordinating fundraising events, there are many professions available beyond the medical field that positively impacts the pediatric cancer community. While each role is different, the common thread that connects everyone is the passion to advocate and amplify the voices of childhood cancer patients and survivors. No matter which role you take, you are making a huge difference! Good luck with your future endeavors! 


Emeline was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was four and has been in remission since she was seven. She is a first-generation Filipina-American born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. Emeline received her BA in Photo Communications from Cal State Fullerton and will receive her MA in Communication Studies from Cal State LA in May 2022. Communication Studies is Emeline’s main discipline because she is fascinated by how people connect by sharing stories of their own upbringing, values, and cultures. One of her most recent accomplishments is becoming an employee at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which is the hospital she received treatment from! Some of Emeline’s long-term goals are to receive a doctorate degree, explore different countries (after the pandemic fades out), and own a dog (preferably a corgi).

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Photo credits: Karsten Winegeart, Tim Marshall, Annie Sprattlilartsy, & Glenn Carstens-Peters