Step 1: Explore the Specialty
Before you pursue a career in Radiation Oncology, it's important to be well informed about the specialty. We've put together a great collection of articles and resources which are essential reading for the aspiring radiation oncology.
These articles will give you a better idea of the pros and cons of a career in the field, trends in the specialty, and hot-topic issues for trainees.
Step 2: Review Radiation Oncology Match Data
Radiation oncology is a competitive specialty. In the 2018 NRMP Match, 6.3% of U.S. allopathic medical school seniors failed to match. Only a few positions are filled by osteopathic and IMG applicants.
Radiation Oncology-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. MD 2018
National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Allopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.
Step 3: Understand Residency Selection Criteria
"We receive over 150 applications each year and offer interviews to 25-30 applicants," writes the Department of Radiation Oncology at UCSF.
To maximize your chances of matching with your first-choice residency program in radiation oncology, you must become well informed as early as possible. In particular, you need to know the criteria residency programs use to select residents.
We recommend beginning with the following resources:
Radiation Oncology-2018 NRMP Program Director Survey
National Resident Matching Program, Data Release and Research Committee: Results of the 2018 NRMP Program Director Survey. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC. 2018.
Check out these other recommended resources
Step 4: Develop your Strategy for Success
As competition for positions in the radiation oncology residency match intensifies, it's more important than ever to have in place the "right" strategy for success. To develop the optimal strategy, use our book, The Successful Match. It's been designated recommended or required reading by the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Medical Women's Association, and numerous allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. AMSA wrote the book "provides the medical student reader with detailed preparation for the matching process." For more powerful information, sign up for our weekly update.
Step 5: Make the Most of your Preclinical Years
The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in radiation oncology.
Step 6: Apply for Scholarships and Awards
When Yao Yu, a medical student at UC Davis won the RSNA Research Medical Student Grant, his mentor was thrilled with his accomplishment. "I am very pleased that Yao was awarded this prestigious research grant," said Allen Chen, assistant professor of radiation oncology and director of the residency and fellowship training program. "The fact that he won this award as a first-year student is unique. His research has the potential to impact the way we deliver radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, and I look forward to mentoring him in the future."
Winning medical school scholarships and awards can provide a major boost to your residency application, and set you apart from your peers. Awards can be placed in the application, MSPE (Dean's Letter), letters of recommendation, and CV. We have found that interviewers often ask about awards during residency interviews.
Step 7: Assess your USMLE Step 1 Score or COMLEX 1 Score
Your USMLE Step 1 exam score is a major factor used by radiation oncology residency programs in the selection process. In 2018, the mean USMLE Step 1 score among matched U.S. seniors was 247. Among unmatched U.S. seniors, the mean score was 238.
Step 8: Strive for Success During Clerkships, Observerships and Externships
Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to radiation oncology residency programs. In a survey of radiation oncology residency programs, 77% cited "grades in required clerkships" as a factor in selecting applicants to interview.
Step 9: Prepare a Powerful Residency Application
In my experience working with applicants, errors are common in the ERAS Application. Although spelling and grammatical errors are frequently seen, equally common and dangerous are the less well-appreciated errors.
Step 10: Develop a Powerful Personal Statement
In a survey of radiation oncology residency programs, 92% cited the personal statement as a factor in selecting applicants to interview.
Step 11: Deliver an Impressive Interview Performance
An invitation to interview is exciting news, and confirmation that you're considered a competitive candidate for a residency position. However, your work is not done, and you need to be diligent in your interview preparation to maximize your chances of success.
What if I didn't match?
If you were unsuccessful during your initial match cycle, you'll need to sit down with your dean or advisor to review your match strategy. In planning your reapplication, each of the steps above becomes even more important.
For those who seek additional expert assistance, we can provide that. Dr. Desai has had significant experience in helping re-applicants match successfully.
This is provided via a Strategy for Success Session. Dr. Desai will perform a comprehensive review of your credentials, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with a specific plan to implement tailored to your unique situation.