Resources for Medical Students
What to Look for in a Residency Program
Ideally, you will find a residency that affords ample opportunity for hands-on clinical training, along with a supportive environment that allows and encourages continued learning and performance improvement.
Consider a program at a cancer center with well-developed multidisciplinary programs and specialists who focus on specific diseases. If you are interested in academics, you should find a program in which the oncologists are actively involved in clinical or translational research that you might participate in during their residency. Academically oriented students should also be encouraged to explore taking time during medical school to participate in summer research programs or even full-year research programs, such as are available at NCI.
Possible Practice Settings
Oncology practice can be applied in three general arenas: academic practice, community practice, or practice in industry or government.
Academic practice is a practice closely aligned with a university or medical school, whose stated goals are generally three: education, research, and patient care. Academic physicians, in their professional lives, may emphasize one of these areas over the other two, but always endeavor to carry out the tripartite academic mission.
Community practice generally refers to either “private practice” or practice within large organizations for which care of patients is the primary goal. This includes multispecialty medical groups, staff-model HMO’s, and employment by government agencies (federal, state, county, or city) in positions where day-to-day care of patients is the primary occupation.
Industry or government practice is closely tied to the overall mission of the organization. Many industrial firms view their mission as performing research to expand knowledge and create new products as much as any academic organization. However, such firms tend to be organized to develop or support a commercial product, so it’s fair to differentiate practice within their structure. Physicians who practice in government generally work to develop or support the development of public policy primarily through implementing or developing regulations, or by supporting lawmakers.
Oncology: The Highest Stakes and the Greatest Rewards
No matter which area of medicine you are drawn to, there is an oncology specialty for you to consider:
- Internal Medicine, subspecialty of Medical Oncology
- Pediatrics, subspecialty of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
- OB/GYN, subspecialty of Gynecologic Oncology
- Radiation Oncology specialty
- Surgery, specialization in Surgical Oncology
- Urology, specialization in Urologic Oncology
The areas listed above range from specialties to subspecialties to specializations that don’t include a board examination. Depending on which area you pursue, training (including residency) will range from 5-8 years.
A career in oncology provides the opportunity to be involved in relatively young but rapidly evolving specialties, which are continuing to deliver new developments for cancer patients. Oncology blends important health care advances in a setting of committed cancer nursing, psychology and modality specialists. It is the model of multidisciplinary care where the oncologist plays an increasing leadership role in managing the cancer research and care team. And as such, oncologists have the opportunity to form the most intense, personal relationships with patients of any field of medicine.
In 2007 ASCO published a report on the oncology workforce that predicted a shortage of up to 4,100 oncologists by 2020, when an aging population and increased cancer survivorship will increase the demand for oncology visits by 48%.
More than 30,000 oncology practitioners belong to ASCO, representing all oncology disciplines (medical, radiological, and surgical oncology) and subspecialties. Members include physicians and health-care professionals participating in approved oncology training programs, oncology nurses, and other practitioners with a predominant interest in oncology.
As the world’s leading professional organization representing physicians who treat people with cancer, ASCO is committed to advancing the education of oncologists and other oncology professionals, to advocating for policies that provide access to high-quality cancer care, and to supporting the clinical trials system and the need for increased clinical and translational research.