The University of Chicago Department of Radiation and Cellular Oncology offers a four year residency program in Radiation Oncology. The residency meets all the requirements of the American Board of Radiology (ABR) and is fully accredited by the American Medical Association's Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
The primary goal of our residency program is to train superb radiation oncologists who will be well prepared to enter clinical practice. The program is designed to teach residents to critically analyze treatment decisions based on the literature. In addition, residents have ample opportunity to participate in clinical, translational, and/or bench research during residency training.
The residency program is accredited for a total of 12 positions with three openings available annually. Candidates begin at the PGY-2 level and proceed through the PGY-5 level. The program does not routinely offer PGY-1 (internship) positions. Candidates are thus responsible for applying for and completing an internship at an accredited hospital. Internships can be done in a variety of fields including Internal Medicine or Surgery. Transitional programs are also acceptable.
Structure of the residency program
There are three clinical years of the program. PGY-2 residents begin residency with a four-week orientation course in Clinical Radiation Oncology, Radiation Physics, and Radiobiology. During the PGY-5 year, one or more residents are designated as Chief Resident(s) and participate in administrative and supervisory responsibilities. Residents are placed on a rotating on-call schedule and cover emergency consultations at the University of Chicago Medicine and the University of Illinois Hospital under attending staff supervision.
The residency is a multi-institutional program and enjoys the combined resources of four medical centers in the metropolitan Chicago area: the University of Chicago Medicine and the University of Illinois Hospital. The residents currently rotate at the University of Chicago Medicine and the University of Illinois Hospital. Faculty from additional satellite hospitals give resident lectures and participate in morning conferences.
Residents and faculty work closely, in a one-on-one fashion on all clinical services. Residents are encouraged early on to take a leading role in the care of their patients. Residents attend weekly multidisciplinary tumor boards for their service. Institutional tumor boards include breast, head and neck, chest, central nervous system, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecologic, lymphoma, pediatric, and musculoskeletal. All tumor boards are attended by pathologists and radiologists making these extremely useful multi-disciplinary learning opportunities.
Seminars and Conferences
An important focus of the program is resident education. One of the most important aspects of the educational program is the Departmental Morning Conference at which the residents prepare and present selected cases to the attending staff. The Monday Conference is run by the chairman, Dr. Weichselbaum and the attending physician who treats the specific disease site being presented. Following an overview of the workup and diagnosis, the patient's management is discussed. The appropriate radiotherapeutic, chemotherapeutic, and surgical literature is then critically reviewed. Lastly, the patient’s radiation treatment plan is reviewed. The broad nature of the conference exemplifies the program's goal to train residents as "oncologists first and radiotherapists second."
The Tuesday Conference is run by the residents and each session focuses on a particular disease sub-site. Additionally, invited lecturers from other departments speak to the residents to supplement their education. The residents also participate in boards-review sessions focused on the major sub-sites to prepare for the oral boards. The didactic schedule is organized around "disease months" ensuring coverage of all major tumor sites during the academic year.
Chart Rounds are held weekly to review the management of all the new and current patients. Residents present the patient's history summarizing the planned or on-going therapy at these conferences. Additionally, Journal Club is held over dinner to discuss recent seminal articles approximately once per quarter.
Departmental research seminars are presented monthly by the attending staff, physicists, and radiobiologists. Topics range from review of issues in biology to presentations of a faculty member's current research. This seminar series fosters interaction and cooperation between the clinical and basic science faculty. The Department arranges periodic visits from noted Radiation Oncologists, Physicists and Biologists from outside the University of Chicago. All visitors meet with the residents and present seminars to the department as a whole.
Twice per year the chief residents coordinate a visiting professor. The visiting professor attends case conference and helps to guide the discussion, meets with the residents for a teaching session, joins the residents for lunch to discuss career goals and plans, and then gives a Department presentation.
All residents are encouraged to participate in clinical research during their residency. Past projects have resulted in presentations at ASTRO, ASCO, and other national meetings. In addition, residents are encouraged to develop novel clinical research protocols with the guidance of a faculty mentor. Residents are reimbursed annually for expenses to attend national meetings at which they are presenting research. Senior residents are also reimbursed for all expenses of at least one national oncology meeting.
A focus of the University of Chicago Residency program is on and clinical research and academia. The entire PGY-4 year is thus devoted to research. There are currently 2 research pathways—either basic science or clinical research. Due to the wide variety of research and ample laboratories in the department, many residents opt to work under the supervision of one of the department's faculty. As shown in the Faculty Section, the research interests of the department's medical, physics, and biology faculty cover a wide spectrum. Residents have also worked in University laboratories outside the department.
Recently, residents have also had the option to pursue clinical research during their PGY-4 year in which they obtain a Master of Science in Health Studies. Recent senior residents have been recipients of prestigious fellowships from the American Cancer Society (ACS), American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
During this year residents also can take advantage of unique opportunities offered by the University of Chicago. These include the University of Chicago MacLean Center for Medical Ethics part-time fellowship, the Medical Education Research, Innovation, Teaching and Scholarship (MERITS) GME medical education fellowship, and the Summer Program in Outcomes Research Training (SPORT). These programs are part-time and can be done in conjunction with work in bench or clinical research if approved by the residency committee.
A unique aspect of our program is that residents have the opportunity to spend a total of 8-12 weeks outside the department ("offsite rotations") during their final clinical year. Residents use this time to gain further experience in a variety of areas and to supplement their clinical skills. These rotations have been arranged at centers throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The Department reimburses the residents for reasonable living and transportation expenses.
After Completion of the program
Many program graduates have pursued careers in academic radiation oncology. Institutions with University of Chicago alumni include Duke University, Mallinckrodt (Washington University), University of California San Diego, University of Southern California, and the Mayo Clinic. A number of recent graduates have remained at the University of Chicago and are current faculty. Others have chosen private practice and presently work at centers throughout the country.