Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Radiation oncology clinical residency program

The Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Radiation Oncology Residency Program is a 4-year program fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The program provides training in clinical radiation oncology, radiation physics and radiobiology. The goal of the Program is to educate and train physicians to be knowledgeable and skillful in the practice of radiation oncology and to be caring and compassionate in treating their patients. At the end of training, the residents are expected to practice radiation oncology independently without supervision. This goal is achieved with strong support from faculty members of the 3 divisions in the department: clinical oncology, medical physics, and radiobiology.

Pre-requisite

All residents commencing the radiation oncology program must have completed a clinical PGY-1 year in an accredited graduate medical education institution. A preliminary year in internal medicine, transitional year or general surgery is recommended, although other preliminary programs are acceptable. VCUHS preliminary internal medicine program has trained many of our residents.

Resident selection process

Our program uses the ERAS program to receive applications. Application materials are reviewed by a panel of faculty members during October and November, and appropriate candidates are invited to interview. Approximately 15-30 applicants are invited to interview annually for one to three positions. We participate in the NRMP, and all applicants are recruited through the match program. The deadline for applications is November 1, with interviews in December and January.

The resident or residents chosen through the match are required to sign a contract for the PGY-2 year of their residency, which is renewed annually.

Rotations

Residents rotate with one or two attending physicians at a time. Each resident is required to rotate through a site-specific service at least twice during the 4 years of training. The goals of each rotation are described in the Resident Manual and are available electronically. Residents are encouraged to review the goals before each rotation. Faculty physicians are encouraged to describe the goals and objectives of each rotation to the resident. In addition, residents currently participate in a six-month research rotation, a one-month nuclear medicine rotation and a one-month-away elective rotation at St. Jude’s in pediatric radiation oncology. Residents also spend part of their training at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, which is a tertiary care center for Veteran’s Affairs hospitals in the region.

Technology

The Department of Radiation Oncology at VCU Massey Cancer Center is equipped with the standard as well the most advanced treatment technologies, including 3D conformal radiotherapy with the Pinnacle planning system, IMRT, IGRT, intra-cranial LINAC-based stereotactic radiotherapy, body stereotactic radiotherapy, respiratory gating, accelerated partial breast radiotherapy including external beam, balloon brachytherapy and multi-catheter breast brachytherapy, LDR and HDR prostate brachytherapy, LDR and HDR GYN brachytherapy, breast Accuboost, TBI, TSEB and hyperthermia. The department has significant physics staff support and an active research program with more than 16 Ph.D. physics faculty and multi-million NIH Grants in the area of image-guided and adaptive radiotherapy. Our residents become familiar with some of the most advanced technologies in the field of radiation oncology currently available. Residents complete their training with significant experience in the treatment modalities and technologies listed above. 

Multidisciplinary conferences

Multidisciplinary conferences are conducted for all the primary disease sites with active participation from pathologists, radiologists, surgical subspecialties and medical oncologists. Each week, more than 14 hours of multidisciplinary conferences occur at VCU Massey Cancer Center and at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA hospital. Since there is simply not enough time to attend all of these conferences, residents attend the conferences that pertain to the specific services through which they are rotating.

Conferences and teaching

CLINICAL TEACHING: Clinical teaching is conducted primarily through daily patient care. Morning conference occur Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 to 9:00. All cases from all the clinics are presented and reviewed. Faculty teaching and resident seminars are Thursday and Friday mornings. Historically our residency program’s graduates have achieved a first-time Oral Board Certification Exam pass rate of more than 90 percent.

Weekly didactic lectures, centered around monthly site-based teaching, are given by attending physicians. Residents present weekly on key papers chosen by the resident and lead attending pertaining to the topic of the month.

PHYSICS AND BIOLOGY: All first year residents have to take a physics course that is specifically designed to for medical and physics residents. The classes are delivered on Friday, 2 hours per week, run through both the Fall and Spring semesters. Residents have to pass the final exam at the end of the academic year. Residents who fail to pass the exam will have to retake the course.  The Radiobiology course is given during the Spring semester. This course is organized and delivered by our radiobiologists.

OTHER LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES: In addition to formal teaching courses listed above, all residents are allowed to participate in outside physics, biology, and clinical refresher courses. 

Research rotation

Scholarly activities are required for resident training. Residents are required to have a 6-month research rotation with longer research rotations a possibility. Research activities can be in clinical oncology, medical physics or radiobiology. Residents are encouraged to apply for outside funding if they are interested.

Resident research is guided and supervised by the Resident Research Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Resident Education Committee. Each resident research project is reviewed and approved by the committee before the resident starts the research rotation. The program generously supports travel to national meetings for residents whose research has been selected for presentation.

RESIDENT EVALUATIONS:

Multi-evaluators will be used to evaluate resident performance. These include post-rotation evaluation by faculty physicians, feedback from peers, staff and patients. Six-core competencies, and 360-degree evaluations are the main tools for performance assessment. Case logs, duty hours, scholarly activities are included in evaluations.

Resident performance will be evaluated by the Clinical Competency Committee (CCC), and will be graded using Milestone Levels, and reported to ACGME semi-annually. Graduation is approved after residents meet all the requirements set forth for certification by the ABR. Residents must achieve the Milestone Level required by the ACGME for graduation.

Inquiries

Clinical Residency Program Director: