Resources for Residents
Oncology: The Highest Stakes and the Greatest Rewards
Many physicians go into residency knowing they will eventually specialize in oncology; a good number make that decision during residency training. The following specialties have some form of subspecialization in oncology. This additional training varies in length from 2-5 years, depending upon your area of interest.
- 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
- Pathology, multiple areas of subspecialization including neuro, hematology or other organ/tumor specific pathology
- Radiology, subspecialization in multiple areas often organ specific (such as neuroradiology or mammography) or technique specific (such as nuclear medicine)
The common bond is that, in each of these fields, there is an explosion in research, multidisciplinary care (learn from others your whole career), career choice options (private practice, academics, industry, government) and very rewarding patient relationships.
Finding an Oncology Training Program
Applying to Oncology Training Programs
Each of the oncology specialty areas has a different application process and timeline. Although a few do have the commonality of using ERAS and participating in the NRMP matches, each process is overseen and/or administered in some way by a separate entity. Get more information about your discipline's subspeciality:
ASCO has an active role in the application process through its sponsorship of medical oncology and hematology/oncology (with the American Society of Hematology) and participation in the Medical Specialties Matching Program.
The application process runs from July of your PGY 2 when ERAS opens for residents to begin working on their applications, which can be submitted starting in November; programs begin receiving applications on December 1. The process concludes the following June, with the MSMP Match for Fellowships beginning the following July. Fellowship programs generally accept applications through January and conduct interviews in February-April. Exact dates vary from program to program
Radiation oncology residencies are five years long, with some institutions devoting the first year to general medicine while others ask that the resident apply to a separate internship. Radiation oncology residencies participate in a formal Match program.
For more information about radiation oncology residencies or to search a list of programs, please see the Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology.
Fellowship training in gynecologic oncology is accredited by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). All fellowship programs require a minimum of three years of training. Approved fellowship programs cover the following curricula: pathology; physiology & patho-physiology; carcinogenesis, invasion and metastasis; genetics; statistics and experimental design; tumor immunology; chemotherapy; pharmacology; radiation therapy; organ-specific diseases and therapeutic options; surgical procedures; and palliative care.
Upon graduation from fellowship, fellows are eligible to sit for both the required oral and written exams leading to their certification in gynecologic oncology.
Since 2006, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) has sponsored the fellowship match on behalf of participating ABOG approved gynecologic oncology programs. The match is conducted by the NRMP Specialty Matching Services and fellowship applications are accepted through the ERAS system.
Fellowship Program Application Timeline:
Application Submission: Fellowship applicants may begin applying to gynecologic oncology programs via the ERAS system beginning December 1. Applications are taken until May 31.
Fellowship Interview: Conducted between June and September.
Match: Conducted in November.
Training Begins: July
For more information, visit the Society of Gynecologic Oncology's website.
Urologic oncology fellowships are officially certified by the Society for Urologic Oncology (SUO) but do not lead to a separate board exam. The goal of advanced training in urologic oncology is to provide further knowledge and skills beyond the expertise acquired during a urology residency program. The fellow should develop exemplary skills in the planning of multidisciplinary approaches to patient care and basic and clinical scientific research methodologies. The SUO accredits two-year fellowships in urologic oncology, of which at least 12 months must be devoted to clinical work.
Most graduates of formal urologic oncology training find positions within a private practice setting, where over 40% of the practice is related to cancer. For more information about urologic oncology or to find information on fellowships, please visit the Society for Urologic Oncology.
Surgical oncology fellowships are reviewed and approved by the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO). Surgical oncology fellowship programs strive to expand the basic surgical knowledge and experience obtained during residency to develop skilled surgeon-investigators who, in turn, will become recognized experts in the field of surgical oncology. Physicians who are interested in fellowship training in surgical oncology can participate in the Match program, which is conducted in the fall.
Surgical oncology fellowship interviews are typically held in late summer and early fall. For more information about surgical oncology fellowships, or to obtain a list of programs, please visit the SSO.
If you've made the decision to pursue oncology in any specialty area, it is advised that you:
- Find a mentor.
- Take advantage of any oncology rotations or research experiences that may be available during your residency.
- When reviewing applications, fellowship program directors often look for candidates who participated in a research endeavor during medical school or residency.
- Some degree of academic pursuit is desirable, whether you seek an academic career or a career in practice.
- Shown a true interest or drive in a particular area.
- Shown a tendency to pursue excellence in all areas.
It is not necessary to become a "junior oncologist" during your residency training. Use this time to master the specialty area and then use the fellowship to develop your skills as an oncologist.
Oncology is at the leading edge of the new age in molecular medicine. This makes all fields of oncology the most exciting in all of medicine. 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.
The ASCO Annual Meeting attracts more than 30,000 attendees and is considered the premier educational and scientific event in the oncology community. Visit ASCO's Virtual Meeting for links to sessions from this and other thematic (GU Cancers/GI Cancers/Breast) meetings. The blend of science and patient care inherent in oncology is represented here.
ASCO's guide for residents and fellows discussing many early career decisions faced by oncologists, Achieving Career Success in Oncology, provides career development advice and strategies for success to new oncologists as they decide which career path is the right one for them: academia, community practice, pharmaceutical industry, or federal government.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about participating in ASCO or attending ASCO meetings.
ASCO Annual Meeting
The Resident Travel Award for Underrepresented Populations: This award from the Conquer Cancer Foundation provides financial support for residents from underrepresented populations to attend ASCO’s Annual Meeting.