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 Department is accredited for a total of 12 positions with three openings available each year. 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 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 throughout the Medical Center 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 Hospitals, the University of Illinois Hospitals, Sherman Hospital, and Silver Cross Hospital. The residents currently rotate at the University of Chicago Hospitals and the University of Illinois Hospitals. The faculty from the other satellite hospitals give resident lectures.
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. Weekly multidisciplinary conferences are held jointly with a number of departments including Hematology-Oncology, Surgical Oncology, Orthopaedic Surgery, Pediatric Oncology, Head and Neck Surgery, Neurosurgery, Gynecologic Oncology, Urology, Thoracic Surgery, Radiology, and Pathology.
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 Dr. Weichselbaum and the attending 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. Approximately once a month, 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, once a block a departmental Journal Club is held over dinner to discuss recent seminal articles.
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. All visitors meet with the residents and present seminars to the department as a whole.
Rotations and research
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. These rotations have been arranged at centers throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. The department reimburses the residents for all living and transportation expenses. Residents are reimbursed annually for all 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. 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.
A focus of the University of Chicago Residency program is on basic science research. The 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 following sections, 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).
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 currently on staff. Others have chosen private practice and presently work at centers throughout the country.