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Rad onc rankings

Discussion in 'Radiation Oncology' started by tomassieblue, Aug 8, 2002.

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  1. tomassieblue

    tomassieblue New Member

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    SDN Members don't see this ad. (About Ads)
    Glad to see this forum put up.

    Just wondering if you guys could put up what you believe are the top programs are. I know this info isn't really published and most of it is word of mouth, but it would be interesting to know what is going around. Thanks!
  2. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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    I'd say classically, and in no particular order, MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, UPenn, UMich, mallinckrodt (WashU), UCSF, the artist previously known as The Joint Centers, Mayo, Stanford. This is just off the top of my head. These, by the way, aren't necessarily the best places for a given individual to train. There are "name" places (and others) that have poor board pass rates on the first go (the rad onc boards are some of the most difficult in medicine to pass) and there is a reputation of great malignancy in many programs. Something for you to keep an eye out for when you interview. Be wary programs where people are dropping like flies for "personal reasons". Of course this is true for any residency.
  3. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    From what I've been able to gather, the elite or "Top 10" programs would probably include (in pseudo descending - meaning the first few are pretty solid, but the order of the rest are more debatable): Sloan-Kettering, MD Anderson, Harvard (both programs), UCSF, U Chicago, U Florida, U Mich, Thomas Jefferson, U Washington, U Penn. Some people told me that the usual big name programs like the Stanfords and Mayos and even Wash U have dropped slightly down the list but are still awesome programs.

    Anyway, that's just what some of the people's opinions are that I've talked to. Anybody have their own lists?
  4. rays

    rays New Member

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    nowadays, it seems that all programs are competitive. here's my vague impression of some programs in terms of quality.

    1. MD Anderson (very easy and comfortable residency with famous staff, seemingly unlimited resources but 100+ temps for like 3 months)
    2. Memorial (seemed weak on didactics but obviously, large busy services. is tons of work better though? brachy is strong, great location.)
    3. University of Chicago (great research, didactics. Happy residents, great city but cold weather)
    4. University of Michigan (excellent attending staff, strong research. Midwest location.)
    5. Former Joint Center-Mass General (I have no idea whats going on there but its still Harvard)
    6. Penn (do they even have 3D conformal yet?)
    7. UCSF (seemed pretty cush, good name, SF is pretty expensive, light on teaching?)
    8. Mayo (great hospital, excellent teaching, pretty lousy location)
    9. Stanford
    10. Florida, Wash U

    Just my thoughts
  5. ATM Machine

    ATM Machine Junior Member

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    Two programs that I didn't see on the list, but was wondering about are Hopkins and NCI. Anyone know much about these programs? I'm assuming the quality of research is high and that the technology is likely pretty cutting edge. Are the residents happy? Any other inside info that can be offered?
  6. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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    I think UPenn should be in the list.
  7. Academic Radiation Oncologist

    Academic Radiation Oncologist Junior Member

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    Apart from the above-listed programs, the following ones are also excellent training programs that are less frequently mentioned:

    University of Florida
    Medical College of Virginia
    University of Alabama
    Indiana University
    U of North Carolina
    Cleveland Clinic
    Duke U
    U of Washington
    Loyola University Chicago
    University of Wisconsin
    Medical College of WI
    Beaumont
    University of Minnesota
    University of Maryland
    UVA
    Mount Sinai
    Montefiore
    Yale
    Stanford
  8. AnnK73

    AnnK73 Member

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    Thanks for those lists. I keep adding programs as I get increasingly nervous.

    Anyone get any interview offers yet? Only transitional year interviews for me so far.

    Ann
  9. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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    The moderator will do her best.
    JHH's program has and is going through a lot of change, for the better. our current set of residents are, if I must say so, quite excellent and nice. The technology has been inferior to what I think JHH should be, but is catching up in that IMRT, IMAT, and IMST (3D-line) is all suddenly on board. We are getting a gamma knife (waste of money I think given the rest of our stereotactic program) and are searching for a new chair with major folks vying for the position; this will be the first time this Department is indeed a department here, so the power base (ie control and money) will likely excelerate. I expect (but can't promise) the new Chair as of 7/03 whoever s/he is.

    The training is excellent. Its very clinic heavy but the academic time has been strengthened considerably in the last 3 years. We have a n excellent program director who is very involved in developing the educational process, and who takes care of the residents. She has everyone's respect and I think I can best sum it up by saying that even when the answer is "no", we can respect that from her.

    A great strength-peds is strong here and you will be extremely well trained in this field without having to go outside, which most other programs will necessitate. Weakness: we have to go outside for prostate brachy right now since we no longer have our brachy guy. After the new chair is in position, we will have a new prostate brachy hire. We can go outside for this without taking up elective time however.

    all in all, well trained from JHH and with a great academic (or private) future from here.

    As for NCI: excellent experience with the weird and wonderful, but -and this is by report from residents who've been there, short of some of the basics. The patient load is quite light and perhaps not enough. However residents seem happy and Norm Coleman is a master.
  10. kryptonite

    kryptonite Junior Member

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    Does anyone know how good these following programs are:and any other useful info?

    Columbia
    Duke
    Emory
    Cleveland clinic
    Fox Chase
    and U. Wisconsin
  11. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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    they're all good. I think that UWisc is an untapped gem. Quite an excellent program if not as famous as the others. Duke is strong, particularly peds and cns. (sometimes controversial). Emory is traditionally good as well.
  12. AJG

    AJG Junior Member

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    I was wondering if our moderator or anyone else had an opinion on the following programs:

    Indiana
    Medical College of Wisconsin
    Ohio State
    University of Minnesota

    Thanks!
  13. argg

    argg Junior Member

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    Hello all. New poster here thinking of rad onc for next year. I was curious if there is anyone on the board with some inside knowledge of what an applicant who successfully matches to one of these top programs looks like. Are they mostly mud-phuds? Are they AOA's with extensive publications on their cv's? Or are they all from their home institutions? Or maybe, just maybe, are some of them average joes?

    Any input on the subject would be appreciated... Maybe our moderator could circuitously comment on the calibur of those matching to Hopkins as well?
  14. MarkMarkMark

    MarkMarkMark Junior Member

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    1. Memorial
    2. MD Anderson
    3. Harvard
    4. Stanford
    5. Wash U
    6. Florida
    7. Michigan
    8. Thomas Jefferson
    9. Iowa
    10. Penn

    +/- Emory, UCLA, UCSF, Loyola, Chicago, U Wisconsin, Mayo, Duke, Beaumont in no particular order
  15. XRTboy

    XRTboy Junior Member

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    1. MD Anderson:
    If it was on either coast, would there even be any debate about whether this is the top residency program? Tremendous resources, their chair (Dr. Cox) is the most resident friendly chair in the nation and their program reflects it, big name faculty, home of the red journal, great learning and research opportunities, good hours. On the interview trail this year, most (almost all) applicants felt this was the best pure residency if location is excluded from the equation. Unfortunately, you do have to live in Houston to go there, which is the only downside to this program.

    2. Harvard Combined Program:
    The combining of the JCRT and MGH residencies programs is a great thing for incoming residents. Whatever kinks exist should be worked out in the next few months as the first class of the combined program starts this July. Simply put there is no better place to be if one is certain that he/she is going into academics. They combined program has more big names than either MD Anderson or Sloan, and most of them are great mentors. Research and understanding the literature are stressed. Can earn MPH at Harvard School of Public Health during PGY-4 research year. On the downside, not that much IMRT (although MGH has protons), Harvard attitudes and politics, excommunication if one goes into private practice.

    3. MSKCC
    Sloan is an amazing cancer center. I was thoroughly impressed by the hospital as a whole, but less excited about the residency program. Being a great cancer center and being a great place to train are two different but related concepts. The workload is high, very high. Sloan is the only rad onc residency that could ever come close to approaching the 80 hour work week. Personally, I think it is too high. The residents have little time to read or perform research because of the high clinical load. Although there is something to be said about learning by doing, I do think there is an optimum balance between seeing patients, reading up on the literature, and doing research, which this program completely lacks. That being side the clinical experience is amazing. The residents work very hard, but really appear to be happy. They all know what they are getting into when they decided to come here. You live in NYC and your rent is really really low because the apartments are subsidized by the hospital. How else could you get a studio in the Upper East side of Manhattan for $650/month? You will also be in high demand when you finish, because of sloan's reputation and all also because you will be well trained in cutting edge technology (IMRT, latest brachy techniques, etc.). Additional downside, if one wants to go into academics then not really the best launching pad. You will have a much harder time in building up your CV at Sloan in comparison to Harvard, Stanford, U Michigan, MD Anderson, etc. because you have much less time for research. That is less time during your clinical rotations because your load is high and also because Sloan offers the smallest dedicated research block of any major program (I think they said only 3 months when I interviewed, compared to the 9-12 month block at the above mentioned programs).

    4. U Michigan
    I really think it deserves to be in everyone's top five. They are always well represented at ASTRO. Their program chair, Ted Lawrence, is the incoming president of ASTRO. Great attendings, great learning, great research. I think that this department is very well respected and considered to be one of the current leaders of radiation oncology. Downside, you are in the midwest and Ann Arbor is expensive for a midwest city. I got the feeling that they were a little old school in their approach to morning conference. That is you really, really want to come well prepared when the pimping starts or they will you feel make you feel like an idiot. It also seems like they had a fair amount of call. You do have to do you prelim year there, which may be more work than what you bargained for during your intern year. Also, when you come to interview they will make you sit through a never ending demo of their in-house planning software. And who can forget their Enron style accounting of your vacation time during your intern year. You really get one week less of vacation than what you will be expecting.

    5. UCSF
    It pains me to put this program so high and this is only because of its location and past reputation, which are two of the worst factors to include in determining the quality of a residency program. The reality is UCSF is very well respected in the world of radiation oncology, where what have you done lately is weighted a little less heavily than in the rest of society. At one time, they were one of the very top rad onc departments. I still think they a good department. They do have a few big names who are very productive. I just think that as a department they are at least a notch or two below the above mentioned institutions, and in regards to their residency program they are well below the others on my list except for Stanford. Didactics and morning conference are incredibly weak. I would rank them last or next to last for didactics at all of the places I interviewed this year. It is not that the program is malignant or anything. There is just incredible apathy from the faculty with respect to resident training. Formal didactics stink, one on one teaching during clinical rotations are poor, etc. During my interview with the PGY-5 on the admissions committee, she talked for 10-15 min about how poor the quality of the teaching and training were. Also, the program director is totally weak. (Bring back Dr. Larson!). It is hard to imagine that anything will turn around until the current chair retires. On the plus side, the schedule is really cush. You will have time to teach yourself. Their current crop of PGY-2's are really strong. They will be great chiefs for those applying next year. The younger and incoming residents seem very motivated and will help each other out. The three women who matched there this year are just awesome. They were some of the nicest and smartest applicants this year. You get the picture; you will be surrounded by excellent fellow residents. You will have no problem finding a great job in academics or private practice when you are done. I do honestly think this place is so overrated, yet in an attempt to comply with full disclosure, I did rank it very high on my match list (#3). This is because there are others things that go into deciding a rank list than just the quality of the residency program. Yet, I never thought for one second the quality of my training would be near the level of the other programs on my rank list. That being said, still the best program on the West Coast.

    6. Stanford
    I also think this place lives on its past glory. Pros: great location, great program director (Dr. Donaldson, former president of ASTRO), great location, great research opportunities. Did I mention great location? You have at your disposal a great research university when you decide on a project. You can do basic science, clinical research, or policy/healthcare economics. Only Stanford, Harvard and U Michigan can truly offer that span of research opportunities. They will also be moving into a beautiful new cancer center that is slated to open in a few months. Dr. Donaldson came across as very sincere in her commitment to resident education. She seems very responsive to resident concerns and has already made resident friendly changes such as site specific rotations (they previously had some bizarre system where you could be doing breast one day and prostate the next) and squashed plans to send residents out to satellite clinics. The downside is that the program's big names are all in lymphoma and peds, which are niche areas of rad onc. (Dr. Goffinet, one of their other big names is breast/head and neck is retiring in a few months). I do think that they have some outstanding junior faculty, but in the bread and butter areas of rad onc, their cabinet is bare in respect to well known national faces. If you want to do research with one of their big names, your only choice is really Dr. Donaldson. Dr. Hoppe is the chair and doesn't really have residents working with him on research projects. Again, I do think their junior faculty are superb and that they offer excellent research opportunities. I would just rather work with big name senior faculty on great projects which would not be a problem at almost any other top 10 residency program.

    6. University of Chicago
    I don't really know that much about the program. I did not interview or rotate there. It is well respected and is known for its outstanding didactics. Great research. My friends who interviewed there really liked it.

    7. Wash U
    It has had a reputation for being malignant in the past. I know at least one applicant who did research in the department for a year, and feels that the malignancy reputation is not deserved. To paraphrase him, you are not going to go out and get a beer with the attendings after work, but that doesn't make the place malignant. I would tend to agree. The rad onc facilities are amazing. Simply beautiful. I heard other applicants talking about as if it was the Louvre. If you go to St. Louis you should see the arch and then stop by Wash U and check out the rad onc department. Good research and good attendings are plentiful. Downside: you get stuck in St. Louis for some of the best years of your life.

    8. Mayo
    As one of the previous posters said, "Great hospital, excellent teaching, lousy location". Really is a very good program with a well deserved national reputation. On the downside, most Russians are more afraid of being exiled to Rochester, Minnesota than to Siberia.
  16. XRTboy

    XRTboy Junior Member

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    9. U PENN
    I have no first hand knowledge of U Penn. There is just a general perception that the program has gone downhill after fox chase and U penn split apart. Additionally, the word on the street is that Penn is behind the times with regards to technology. The were the last of the major programs to get 3D conformal planning. I don't think they do much if any IMRT. The chair at U Penn makes a good point that many of the new therapies such as IMRT have yet to show a survival advantage, and thus prefers to wait until new technologies can prove their benefit (Duke has similar beliefs). Personally, I do agree with them and that patients receiving IMRT should be in trials. There is this feeling that IMRT may become the standard of care at some disease sites without sufficient data proving clinical benefit. That in and of its self is a whole separate discussion. Yet, at the end of my residency, I want to be well trained in the tools and areas that are projected to be the new standards in rad onc. Currently, that is IMRT and brachy. One is placing themselves at a major disadvantage in the job market s/p residency without these skills. If there are people from U Penn, please post about your program. My goal is to inform and not unfairly put down your program. Yet, these are the rumors and thoughts that do go around the interview circuit about U Penn and are repeated by faculty at other places too.

    10. U Florida
    I love this program. I think it is a hidden gem among the top 10. I do realize that this is the one pick on my list that is the least likely to be on other people's top 10 list, but it is a great residency program in my opinion. When I first became interested in rad onc, I had heard about all of the above programs being great places. Now several years later, Florida belongs there too. It is well respected nationally and is a leader in head and neck. I think there is no better combination of chair and residency director than this place. Dr. Nancy Mendenhall is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. One of the other applicants described her as the only chair on the interview circuit who looked him in the eye, shook his hand, and made a real connection. This program is well balanced. You see patients, have time to read, and perform research. You don't have a dedicated block of time like many of the other programs on my list, but the residents still do a lot of research. You training in IMRT will be top notch. Your training overall will be second to none (So much better than what you would ever get at UCSF). Really nice faculty and residents. It feels like a giant family there. I know one of the residents there, and he states that they really do get along. At how many programs do the faculty socialize with one another? (At my medical school, they really don't like each other all that much.) I think clinically they are very strong across the board as they are a major referral center for their region. You will always be apart of the U Florida family long after you finish no matter whether you go into academics or private practice. They will soon be breaking ground on their proton center as well. Now for the bad. Not stocked with as many big names as some of the programs on my list. You are in Gainesville for four years, which must be the only major Florida city not on either coast. This is truly a college town. The median age is like 20 when school is in session. You will not find many 25-35 year-olds around town. It could easily be a very lonely four years.

    Other programs that I was really impressed with:
    University of Wisconsin (great research, good teaching, up and coming program)

    Cleveland Clinic (excellent didactics and training, awesome program director, nice residents. I bet these guys just rock the boards)

    Medical College of Wisconsin (another sleeper program, uber nice faculty and residents. I felt as if I had woken up in a Brady Bunch episode because everyone was so nice and happy.)

    William Beaumont (well balanced program with a very strong chair. This guy just commands respect. )

    Programs I didn't like:
    Thomas Jefferson:
    I have seen it on several people's top 10 list, but I did not even rank this place. I know several others who did not rank it as well or put it at the very bottom of their rank list. The residents did not seem very happy. The PGY-2's were staying late every night, and they felt that were not learning as much as they should. The department has yet to replace some faculty who recently departed, and this means the clinical load per attending/resident has increased. One of the residents told me that she has gotten very little teaching because the attending is just trying to get through their large clinical load. I also sensed tension between residents and attendings on my interview day. Overall, I was just getting a very bad vibe about this place. On the plus side, this program is closely affiliated with the RTOG since the chair of the department, Dr.Curran, is also the president of RTOG. Furthermore, RTOG headquarters are just down the street. Dr. Walter (Wally) Curran is very well known and I am sure that he can connect residents up with any job in academics s/p residency. I also need to comment on one other aspect of the program. One of the first things that I noticed about morning conference was the number of attractive female residents. Apparently, I was not the only one. The residents at my home program told me this is a decently well known secret and these attractive residents are deemed Wally's angels (Wally is for Wally Curran, the chair). I comment on this not to be a sexist pig, but rather to point out that this program may have people in high places who are letting their little head think for the big head. Applicants should be aware of this.

    Duke:
    I thought several of the faculty heavily involved with the residency program were just strange. It was really the only rad onc program that I have experience with that I would describe as arrogant. I thought the residents were sub-par and program is second only to U Penn in terms of lack of technology. During lunch, the residents were telling us how Duke was the most prestigious rad onc program in the nation. The residents looked us straight in the face and said that they have more well known attendings than Sloan or MD Anderson. It is not that they said this that bothers me; it is that they actually believe this that scares me so much about this place. Duke was the only place that had faculty that I honestly hope to never talk to again during my lifetime. Some of them were that weird.

    I realize that I have been quite brutal about some places and have probably offended some people, yet I do think these opinions are deserved. I am certainly not alone in my feelings about UCSF, Thomas Jefferson, or Duke. I do encourage others to post about programs and let us know their experiences. Really the best sources about these places are students who have rotated at them. I found these opinions invaluable and it definitely played a role in shaping my rank list. Hearing the pros and cons about places is so much more useful than just knowing the best programs. I do hope that this at leasts stimulates some discussion about various programs.
  17. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    Hey XRTboy. Thanks a lot for your in depth analysis on these programs. It's nice to be able to stimulate discussion on this topic since there's such varying opinion when it comes to such subjective matters and everybody has heard something about every program, it's good to hear what's out there. Quick question for you though. Are your rankings based on the quality of education you'd receive as a resident or based on how strong the program is in the field of rad onc?

    Anyway, here are my 2 cents on some of the places mentioned.

    First off, I do agree with some of your comments on UCSF. It does seem to rely a lot on its name. However, that name is gigantic, and there are enough huge names there that you'd be crazy not to call it a top 10. But, there seems to be a lot of neglect of residents by the faculty, and formal teaching is not very good. However, the younger attendings seem to be pretty dedicated to resident education. Also, the patient load seems to be rather light for such a highly esteemed institution. Someone put it to me this way: UCSF has pretty poor training but it attracts the best residents, so it all evens out.

    Michigan is a top notch program as well. It has outstanding opportunity for basic science and translational research, and there are big names all around. However, the workload seems quite high, as does the amount of scutwork. Residents are very open with that, saying that on many rotations, you'd be leaving around 7 pm, with some days staying until 9 pm. I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds a little too surgery-eque for my taste. Also, with so many other rad onc programs out there having very little to no scut, there's no reason why a big name place like Michigan should make you run around chasing films and stuff. Finally, their brachytherapy program is extremely weak. It's hardly existent at the University and the only real exposure you get is at a community hospital you rotate at. The residents have said that if you plan on becoming a brachytherapist, this is not the program for you. Overall though, top-notch program for the unique things it offers.

    Quick comment on U of Chicago. World-class faculty and outstanding didactics. Probably the best formal teaching in the country. Technology is also outstanding except for the fact that they don't have HDR brachy. Program may be a little malignant, and that morning report thing they do is stressful. Overall, if you need didactics, this is the best place to train. Plus, great location.

    I would probably push UPenn a little lower on the list. It seems to rely a lot on its name but it is behind on technology and some of the faculty are not the friendliest. But it is still top for peds and basic science research. A lot of people though have some negative things to say and don't even regard it as the best program in Philly. I'm not sure what's going on with their new cancer center that they've been talking about for the past several years. I'd probably put it at a top 15 program overall.

    I agree with your assessment of UFlorida. It is really a top notch program with excellent faculty and just an overall sense of happiness and friendliness. They have lost some of their big names over the past few years, but enough remain who are research machines. I think the amount of resident participation with these research projects is very above average compared with other places, and I think they do like one a year for their annual conference. I don't think they are missing any of the major technologies, and they are the leaders for head and neck, and also pretty good with peds. Negatives though are that it is in Gainesville, and there is a lack of basic science research. Formal didactics are lacking, which is bad for those who learn that way. Also, the name doesn't make one shudder since U Florida isn't traditionally a known power house in a lot of other fields with the exception of football. However, within rad onc, people recognize the name and regard as an elite program, and I would definitely put this in my top 10.

    A place you didn't mention was U Wash. It has a good name and probably the strongest brachy program in the country. They also have a cyclotron. Didactics seem to be on the low side as well. However, most people would call it barely a top 10, but definitely top 15. Great location as well.

    I agree with what you said also about Thomas Jefferson. It has a good name and has a strong chair. However, something seems really strange about that place. It definitely is known for the attractive residents, and I also heard it's by design which is pretty sad. However, it has good technology and is regarded by many as the best program in Philadelphia.

    Duke also was sort or unsettling. Although it has a reputation for being malignant, I do think that that is probably not as accurate as it once was. The PD seems like a very nice guy who is working very hard to dispel that image. But the chair I bet is not helping matters much. He doesn't come off as the friendliest person, but to be fair, residents do say that he never fails to fight for residents and take their side. Their technology may be weak, but they are leaders in hyperthermia. Overall though, the name Duke doesn't carry the name in rad onc as it does in other fields.

    Although Stanford is a good program, I would probably knock it down a little. There are enough people I've heard from who have negative things to say that it has me on the lookout. Except for Hoppe, not sure if there are a lot of big names. I did hear though that they are getting rid of that silly system where residents draw attendings' names out of a hat to determine who they will work with that day. That should make things better for educational purposes. However, good name overall and great location. Top 15 I'd say.

    I'd also drop Mayo just because you don't hear people say too much about that place. The name is of course huge, and the place itself is dripping with money which makes life easier for residents. However, I just can't see this place much higher than top 15 if that.
  18. XRTboy

    XRTboy Junior Member

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    Oscar, great to read your thoughts on the all of this (your analysis is so much more eloquent than mine). To answer your first question, I was basing my analysis on the strength of the residency program, which I was loosely basing on the following criteria in no particular order (although it was more of a gestalt, than a no holds barred US News and World Report in depth spreadsheet analysis):
    1. Quality of clinical training
    2. Quality of didactics/ learning the rad onc literature (closely related to #1 above)
    3. Research experience/opportunities
    4. Current overall strength of the rad onc department (not necessarily related to the residency program); For example, I consider Sloan to be #1 or #2 in terms of strength of the department. The technology is simply amazing, research by attendings is top notch, clinical care of patients is second to none, no other institution is as well respected by the public. In short, this is the type of place I would take my mother, father, spouse, etc. if they needed XRT. Yet, I don?t think their residency training is in the top two for the reasons discussed in my earlier post.
    5. Reputation of the department (closely related to #4 above, but still distinct); for example Stanford has a great reputation within the field of rad onc, but I think that its current strength (#4 above) is well below its reputation (i.e. it is living on past glory).
    6. Ability to get a top job in private practice
    7. Ability to get a top job in academics
    8. Quality of fellow residents
    9. Lifestyle as a resident
    10. Technology of the program

    A word on location; I tried to avoid including this in the analysis. I know that it matters, but this is something each applicant can decide on how to factor into his or her individual situation. Some people just have to be on the coast, and would never consider MD Anderson, U Michigan, or Wash U. Others are from the Midwest, and prefer to return home for residency. Otherwise, I think most people would agree with the above criteria and the direction in which they should go (i.e. higher quality training vs. lower quality training). Individual variation is most likely to be found on how one would weigh the above factors. This is a very individual decision.

    UCSF: I agree that it should be in the top 10. I ranked it at #5 based mainly on the following factors (weighted in descending order):
    1. Reputation
    2. Ability to get a top job in academics
    3. Ability to get a top job in private practice
    4. Current Strength of the department
    5. Quality of fellow residents
    6. Lifestyle

    Where it really deserves to be ranked, I possess no universal truth that gives me insight into that. I do know that you can certainly find individuals who feel this is the strongest rad onc department in the country. I personally disagree with that. After visiting both Sloan and MD Anderson, UCSF is just not at the same level in terms of departmental strength, let alone the quality of the residency. None of this really matters in the end. What does matter is the following, at UCSF expect to do a great deal of learning on your own and being taught by other residents because formal didactics are poor and training in clinic from faculty is well below average. I agree they have junior faculty that would like to teach and change things, but they don?t have the power or the time to change things on their own. The problems start at the top and work their way down from there. This is only compounded by an ineffectual residency program director. Additionally as you correctly pointed out, their patient load is light, and I would argue that it is too light. Yet at the end of residency, this program will pay big dividends when one looks to find a job in either private practice or academics because it undoubtedly has a top 5 reputation (probably top 3) in the realm of rad onc. Residents will do great on the boards in spite of the program and not because of it since they take some of the strongest applicants each year. I don?t know with any certainty, but I imagine that UCSF is one of the top 3 most competitive rad onc residencies year in and year out.

    Stanford:
    Everything you said about this place is true. I have heard some of the negative things about this program as well, yet I still think it deserves to be ranked somewhere from #6 to #9. I would argue that Stanford can claim to have three big names: Hoppe (lymphoma), Donaldson (peds/lymphoma), Hancock (lymphoma). Obviously, Hoppe is the most well known, but Donaldson is very well known and respected too. Having her calling to find you a job is going to carry a great deal of weight at the end of residency. Hancock may not make the rad onc all-star team, but he would get votes on some ballots. Unfortunately, they are all big names in areas that most applicants could care less about. There was a time when Stanford was the top rad onc department in the country. Yes, this was during our parents? youth, but that reputation has never gone away entirely. This institution is one of the birthplaces of rad onc in the US. It has also produced a great number of chairmen. I honestly believe that Stanford is one of the top 4 programs for getting a job in academics. First off, you have 11 or 12 months of dedicated research time. One can buff up their CV prior to applying for a job in academics. Secondly, in the world of academics Stanford, UCSF, Harvard, and Sloan are like one giant program. There is a great deal of lateral flow of graduates from one residency into an attending position at another. Yes, you can get a job at one of these places if you go elsewhere, but the majority of faculty at each of these places is a graduate from one of these four places. Just look at Sloan, the entire attending staff comes from mainly these four programs. Additionally, all of these programs are very close-knit in that the faculty knows one another quite well. This has been one several arguments used by faculty (but not residents, who would rank MD Anderson way above Stanford) at my program to discourage fourth-year medical students from ranking MD Anderson above these four programs. You can count the number of MD Anderson graduates at these four places on one hand, and I believe on just one finger if memory serves me correctly. I do think that all things being equal a Stanford grad has a better chance than a MD Anderson or U Michigan grad at getting a job at one of the elite programs. Whether this is just or not, I can?t speak to that. I do believe that there is some truth in the above, which is based on my rad onc experiences ( I spent several years in rad onc prior to applying, I have attended ASTRO several times, and I know faculty and residents at many different programs). I can honestly say that at my home institution, graduates from a rad onc residency at one of these elite four programs are held in higher regard than graduates from other programs.

    U Michigan: I agree with you 100% about this place. Their residents take nearly as much call during their PGY-2 year as MD Anderson residents take over four years. Yet, I do have great respect for their residency program. I think their residents are well trained when they come out, but they could certainly use more brachy. Not that I have attended that many ASTRO?s, but U Michigan has been as prominent as any program there. In my humble opinion, I consider this department one of the current leaders in rad onc along with Harvard, MD Anderson, UCSF, Stanford, and Sloan. These programs dominate or at least seem to be the best represented at ASTRO in terms of presentations, faculty involved with refresher courses, panels, etc. That has just been my impression and most likely is flawed as I have never sat down and calculated this directly from the ASTRO program guide. Yet, after thumbing through the program guide just now, these six places have a presence at ASTRO that is a level above the rest of rad onc (Although Harvard, MD Anderson, and Sloan have a greater presence than U Mich, Stanford, UCSF).


    University of Washington (the one in Seattle for those keeping track):
    I have no firsthand knowledge of the program because they only interviewed on one day last year. I heard they crammed 20+ applicants into that one day though. Does anyone know the story with the brachy there? I thought the great brachy experience stemmed from the University of Washington?s close relationship with the large private practice but very academic group in the Northwest. I may suffer my East Coast bias, but I would not place UW in my top 10. I think around 15 is a fair assessment. In my neck of the woods, this program just does not come up very often in rad onc related conversations. I would say a place like U Penn, Thomas Jefferson, ?Mayo garners more respect in rad onc circles or I least in the circles in which I travel. I have also heard others talk about the Seattle Prostate Group (or whatever the actually name of the big brachy group is in the state of Washington) as a separate entity from UW. Although the details elude me, the big brachy group in the Northwest is a world leader in brachy and is very well respected. I honestly don?t know much about UW, so I don?t want to be unfair. For those of you who know something about UW, please post.
  19. kryptonite

    kryptonite Junior Member

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    Hi,

    I also interviewed this past season in many of the programs that have been mentioned above, and would like to add my 2 cents for whatever its worth.

    My top 6 programs would be: (And this is based on the criteria mentioned above by XRTboy, but I would include location just b/c it is my assessment of the programs as a whole). That is as a great as a program is (i.e. Michigan), if you cannot see yourself happy there, then it shouldn't make your top list.

    1. Harvard

    Harvard will be starting its combined program this year. This "merger" basically places two top 5 programs into one, and thus merges the strength of the two. It is very academic. With a chairman that will go to bat for you once you're in the program when it comes to looking for a job in academics. However, the converse is not necessary true. He dislike those who venture into private practice, as is the case for 2 residents this year. The didactic at the JCRT is the best I've seen. It is comprhensive, overseen by an expert attending on the field. However, sometimes the topic could be too microscopic. But that is the drawback of being at a very academic institution, where they will present topics like microlazer technology in analyzing prostate cancer gene expression. In addition, the faculty is phenomenal. Just to list a few that are leaders in the field: Jay Loeffler, Jay Harris, Anthony D'Amico, Shipley, Tarbell, Zietman, Recht....and these are jus the most senior ones. Finally, the Harvard name will carry you far beyond your career as a resident. For full exclosure, I did not rank this program #1 for personal reason, but I would still consider it the #1 program in the country. Their technology is slightly behind, with only recent implementation of IMRT in some anatomical regions.

    2. MD Anderson

    Anderson is a phenomenal place. It has rapidly expanded in the last decade or so to become arguably the biggest department in the country. Dr. Cox has been a great chair and a great advocate for residents (these things don't necessary go hand in hand). They have the latest technology, lots of money etc etc. If you are a resident at Anderson, you won't get scutted out like at Memorial in seeing every prostate patient until you dream about prostate. However, you do get the very best and interesting cases (Dr. Cox's idea). I was told by the chief resident however, that Dr. Cox may be retiring, stepping aside in the next few years given his age. However, he has established the program to be great both in reputation and for residents, and I see no reason why this would not continue. If you want to work for big names in rad onc, look no further. There are 3-4 attendings per area unlikie most programs who are lucky if they have someone who specializes in one area. This location leaves a lot to be desire of. Houston isn't exactly your tropical paradise. The summers are extremely hot and humid. However, I do feel that they have not gotten the respect that they deserved (unlike the harvards, stanford, ucsf...). I think they are somewhat similar to a Wash U (St. Louis) medical school. Washu is arguably one of the top 3 medical schools, but for some reason, not man people consider it one of the elites). However, I think that this will slowly change as more residents out of Anderson are migrating to big university institutions like harvard michigan, stanford, ucsf...

    3. Memorial Sloan Kettering

    I won't say too much about this program as a lot has already been said, and I agree. The name is impressive in the rad onc world. NY is a great place to live, with great subsidized housing offered by MSKCC. Clinical education is very extensive (maybe too much). Research time is limited. One cannot do basic science research unless they do the homan's pathway, which is 2 years of research and less c lnical time. the residency director is new and somewhat inexperienced ( i think he doens't have the right priorites for residents yet, ie. with limiting what residents can do in reserach). The chair is also a big name in CNS, but i'm not sure how much help that is for residents. They have a semi-retired giant in Fuks who is a star in angiogenesis research.

    4. Stanford

    Though I place this program 4th overall here, I actually ranked it pretty high for considerations that are more important to me. I do agree that their big name attendings are in fields like lymphoma and peds, but at the same time, I think one still gets great clinical training under some of the more junior attendings. This was more important to me than having 6-8 famous attendings, but only 1-2 of them that really tries to teach residents (as in the case of programs like UCSF etc). Frankly, I also did hear a lot of negatives from other residents and programs (i.e. stanford is very disorganized, the place is really old etc). I was very pleasantly surprised on my interview. But with Sarah Donaldson taking over, they've already remedied some of the problems. FYI- they've already gone to the anatomical based schedule for residents instead of the drawing out of the hat method. In terms of being in a really old and crowded place, they are moving into a brand new cancer center at the end of 2003. In addition, something others haven't commented on is the fact that their basic/translational research program is one of the stornges if not the strongest along with U. Michigan. Stanford are leaders in tumor angiogenesis/hypoxia research. I understand that some aren't interested in basic science research. As for me, this was a big draw to the program. Stanford as an institution has a wealth of resources and can connect one beyond their residency (this is only second to a place like harvard). oh yeah, and it's definitely an elite program (top 6) and not just top 15- what other programs would u put above it?

    5. UCSF

    UCSF is a bit disappointing i must say. THe positives are: SF as a location, the residents being very cool, UCSF has i.e. larson (CNS), roach (prostate), Wara (peds), Sneed (CNS). but i wouldn't say that the the reputation of this program is gigantic. It is clearly a top 4 reputation wise, but a step from MSKCC, Harvard and Anderson. Conferences are run by residents (which means that attendings don't lke to attend them and contribute their 2 cents). This is sold as being a very idepednet way of learning, in actuality, it means that residents teach themselves (like in New Pathway at HMS =)). There were many times in conference where a controversial topic is brought up (i.e. Surgical salvage after XRT for H and Neck cancer) and I found that the residents were confused as well. This would be a good time to have an attending present to clear up the issue and point the residents to the source to look up the info. at SF you do rotation at Mt Zion and at the main med center. This is a bit annoying as you have to shuttle back and forth sometimes on a given day. the med center is pretty old and run down, but it only houses the CNS and gamma knife these days. the residency director has little say in how the program is runned. She defers mostly to the chairman. All in all, tho, it's a great program, you'll learn b/c if you matched here you are very qualified. You will get a great job b/c of the name of the instuttion. and you're in california! what else can you ask for? oh yeah, research time is technically 6 months, negotiable to almost a year.
  20. AlexanderJ

    AlexanderJ Member

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    I have really enjoyed this thread. Lots of good thoughts about the top programs in the nation. However, we should be cautioned that these ranking lists are just opinions. No objective data that I am aware of are available with regards to Rad Onc program rankings. Consequently, the opinions posted are most appreciated and give us some idea of the top programs. However, perhaps the U.S. News and World Report rankings of cancer centers in the nation might be a more objective list.
    I know this list is for cancer centers as a whole, and not for Rad Onc specifically. However, since cancer treatment is multidisciplinary, it may be the most objective information we have to work with. Hope everyone is as excited as I am about entering the field of Rad Onc. See you at ASTRO.
  21. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    ...agree with your comments on Anderson, Kryptonite. Since I began paying attention to the field 3 years ago, I have never heard anyone not give MDA the respect it deserves. I think it's pretty accepted by a majority of the population who cares about this stuff that MDA and MSKCC are the top 2 programs and then there's the rest. If you want to go by the US News and World Report rankings, they consistently have those two swapping top honors much like Harvard and Hopkins do with med school rankings, or Harvard and Yale for Law. Their program is definitely phenomenal with the faculty, resources, teaching, and opportunities during and post residency, and I think people pretty much know that you will get a much more diverse training at MDA than you would at Sloan (ie, more than just clinical training).

    As for Wash U not being regarded as an elite med school, I'd have to disagree with you there as well. I've never met anyone who didn't have it in the top 5 med schools in the country. But you know, it's funny. With residency programs, especially in rad onc, I can see where these differences in rankings come from. There's well known faculty with particular expertise that you directly train under, widely varying technology to train with, and such differing research opportunities that the training you get at one residency program can be completely different from what you'd get at another. But with med school, the difference between a Harvard and an average med school just doesn't seem that big. You still learn the same material and the same skills. You may learn a few esoteric things from some famous guest lecturer, maybe, but how does that benefit you as a resident? Everybody's clinical experience as a student is completely dependent on the particular patient's that he or she sees and is much less dependent on who's teaching you. The only big difference I can see is that you have much tougher competition getting in and during med school. Does that mean the school is better by virtue of the students that comprise the class? Sorry, this is a completely different discussion.

    Anyway, maybe someone should put together a poll to see what the opinions are out there of the top 10, or heck, maybe the top 20 programs out there. I mean someone other than myself because I'd have no idea how to do it. But if anyone is familiar with the college football rankings, each vote for number one is worth 25 points, #2 is 24 points, #3 is 23 points and so on and so forth. Then as everyone votes, all the points are tallied up to and the program with the most points is #1, 2nd most #2... you get the idea. Anyone out there want to set this up? I know it's totally subjective and means nothing, but c'mon, how can we deny our basic need to rank things and make everything from the beauty of our 5 year old children to the amount we can stuff into our digestive tracts a contest? The fact that there aren't any published stuff on this makes it that much more interesting and debatable, as evidenced by this long thread the number of views its getting.
  22. kryptonite

    kryptonite Junior Member

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    Oscar, you are certainly entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. That's what a discussion is about. But I think you have misunderstood some of what I had said. So to clarify, I never said that Anderson wasn't a top program. In fact, on the list above, I placed it at 2. My comment was just to make an analogy that given its location, it has not gotten the full reputation that is most certainly deserves. That doesn't mean that it's not already considered a top rad onc dept/residency. Secondly, as I was not trying to put down Anderson, but to say that it's a great place, I was also not trying to put down Wash U. However, it is well known that even though it's 3rd (or something like that) on US News report, it consistently has difficulty attracting the best candidates over the so called lower ranked places such as columbia, yale, UCLA, etc. and it's simply b/c of location. That was the point I was trying to make.

    Fair or not, unfortunately, this world where people are judged not only by one's skill but where one went to school, it matters where one goes undergrad in order to get into a good med school. It matters where one goes to med school in order to get into a competitive residency field/program, and it matters where one does their residency when looking for a job. if u don't believe this, take a look at who matched at the good places in rad onc the last 2 years. Sure, it might not matter in terms of one's overall experience in education, but sadly but true, your tuition goes beyond supporting the education; you are also paying for the reputation.

    anways, just some thoughts to stimulate discussion. not meant to invoke flaming
    :)
  23. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    Don't worry. This isn't inflaming anyone, especially not me. I love bantering around with these types of topics because it's so subjective, much like debating college football. BTW, if anyone wants to discuss that, we could start another thread... :)

    Anyway, I would like to ask why you believe Anderson has a difficult time attracting the best candidates. If I was a top student at my med school who would be competitive at any program, I'd be crazy not to apply to that program, and even crazier not to go to the interview if invited. So then it may be that the top candidates don't rank them as highly as other places because of location. I'll give you that. If I had the choice, I'd probably put a UCSF or Sloan above MDA based on geography. However, only so many people can get into those programs and eventually MDA will get filled. There certainly are a plethora of top candidates out there to go around and sort themselves out among these top programs, especially these days. I don't know about the class that just got filled, but I know that the incoming PGY-2 class about to start there has 3 out of 4 who are Md-PhD's. Also, I know that med students everywhere love to rotate at MDA and they tend to schmooze a lot while they're there. Who wouldn't, right? So it seems that the program tends to take a good chunk of their residents among this pool who have become chummy with the faculty. So at least they know the people they rank will in turn rank them highly. That's just my impression from the word on the "street." Anyone else have an opinion on this?

    With Wash U, I might counter your argument that they have a hard time getting the best med students by pointing to the fact that they consistently have the highest MCAT average than any other school. Now, we all know of course that your score on that test is a horrible measuring stick for one's quality as an applicant. While you certainly could be a bad applicant apart from a stellar performance on that exam, I do at least believe the trend that the better you do in college, the better you will do on the MCAT on average. And I'm sure through the interview process, they would look at the person as a whole. So it would stand to reason that among the top applicants who apply to these top schools, Wash U takes those who scored the highest on the MCAT. However, I will say that I know virtually nothing about that school and know no one who went there. So maybe what you're saying Kryponite is something that is well-known by everyone else. It's just the first I've heard of it so I am a little surprised if it's true. But if you're saying this based on geography, I can see where you're coming. But again, top applicants will want to go to top schools, and at least among the top 10 schools out there, I would think that there's plenty to go around. From what I've heard, Hopkins is in a pretty ghetto area and the hospital sucks. But I'd be very surprised to hear one say that they have trouble attracting the creme de la creme year in and year out.

    Anyway, sorry for this long post. It's nice though to get a discussion going....
  24. kryptonite

    kryptonite Junior Member

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    Sure. One would be crazy not to apply to Anderson, to go to the interview when invited. I am just saying that prior to the last two years, they have had a difficult time attracting top knotch candidates. And they readily admits this themselves. 4 years ago, they were still recruiting IMGs (nothing against them of course). It used to be that a prominent chair at a top 3 program brags about how they haven't "lost" anyone to Anderson in pursuit of a top residency candidate. Things have changed though. Last year, they matched a guy from Yale, and this year they matched someone from HMS. So given that the field is getting more competitive, I think Anderson is finally getting the awesome rep that it deserves.

    Secondly, don't want to debate the med school much more given that it's beyond the scope of this forum. But mcat scores isn't the best guide for the reputation of a med school. washu year in an dyear out look for people with the highest gpa and highest mcat, therefore reflecting their avgs. that doesn't mean that the get the best students. other consideration include: where one went to undergrad, letters of rec, reserach, accomplishment outside of academics...well-roundedness. to rank a med school based on the mcat averages is a little one-sided. hopkins is in a league of its own. people don't like to go to baltimore, but it's so famous that people would "suck" it up to go there. trust me, i know plenty of people who hates baltimore, but enrolls at hopkins. i think this is less true for wash u.

    anways, back to the topic of rad onc program and impression. I am by no means the final authority on this (obviously). i , along with xrt boy were just offering our impressions. I tried to be honest and fair, and base it on facts that are trustworthy. Just wanted to pass this info along to people that might find it useful. THe places i have commented on are all places i've personally visited and interviewed. i don't think it's fair to comment on places that I haven't visited or know in depth. having spoke to the chair, PD, residents at each iof the above nstitutes and other applicants thisyear, I think i have a pretty good impression of the ins- and outs currently. but again, they are just my opinions.
  25. XRTboy

    XRTboy Junior Member

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    I realize this is the rankings thread, but another main intention of my recent posts has simply been to pass on some of the knowledge I have accumulated about rad onc (a large bulk obtained from the interview trail) prior to starting internship. In the end, the rankings are not as nearly as important as the information that we can pass on to rising fourth-year medical students gathered from the perspective of a recent applicant. Consequently, I have made an effort to leave something of value behind in the hopes that others would follow my lead. Stating why you think a program is great in the context of its flaws is so much more useful than simply stating ?Sloan Rocks?.

    Yes, these are just opinions, but I have attempted to make them informed opinions. My goal has been more to inform than to persuade. To that end, I have been trying to remain fair and impartial. I have no axe to grind with any particular program or person. I have erred on giving more information (especially on the con side) than less (even at the expense of my anonymity), so that my comments might be of greater value. Almost all of my info is firsthand, and I have tried to make it clear when that is not the case. I do think there is something to be said for personal experience. I think many of us on the interview trail had many of the same thoughts about particular programs. Yes, there were differences, but more often than not, there was consensus too. I honestly don?t see how anyone who has firsthand knowledge of both UCSF and MD Anderson could possibly argue that UCSF has better training. Once you go to both places; there is no debate. At UCSF, morning conferences are poor and not well attended. Half the time, the program director takes role and leaves. Contrast this to MDA, where the entire department shows up for morning conference. The chair expects all faculty and residents to attend. The conferences are awesome. Nearly 40+ people turn out for them. This just sets the tone about how this program values resident education.

    For many of you applying next year, it will be a very stressful time. I admit that I felt completely humbled at times during the interview-match process. I certainly slept much better s/p match day. There are so many applicants that would have been considered superstars just 4 fours ago, but now unable to stand out from the crowed, they belong to a very large pack of strong candidates. The point that I am trying to make is that even the strongest of applicants is not ?guaranteed? a spot at a specific program. There are just so many great applicants that programs choose us more than we choose them. Consequently, we are applying and interviewing at more and more places, many of which I knew very little about until after my interviews. I often thought how helpful it would have been to hear the ?inside scoop? on programs from someone who had gone through the interview process the year before. Yes, we have all heard many rumors and comments about various programs, but it would be nice to have something a little more substantial to go on. Even if there was a US News and World Report rank list for rad onc, I still think that hearing about the thoughts and experiences of those just completing the process would be invaluable ( I have tried to think about what info I would have wanted to know a year ago at this time).

    I also think using the US News rankings for Cancer Hospitals as a proxy for rad onc rankings would be a mistake. I think there are better options for estimating the strength of a department. I suggest looking through the ASTRO scientific program (http://www.astro.org/annual_meeting/scientific_program/) and perusing the educational sessions/refresher courses. These speakers are chosen because they are at the top or near the top of their respective field. No, you will not be able to come up with a numerical ranking, but you will come away with a sense of which programs are the more active and prestigious departments in the country. Additionally, I browsed through the oral presentations prior to applying last year. I think ASTRO is as close to ?scoreboard? as we can get. This is certainly a more objective method than any of our opinions. Based on this, I added Beaumont, U Wisconsin, and Medical College of Wisconsin to my list last year. It was one of the rare smart moves I made at that time. In my opinion, they all offered training equal to or better than many so called ?elite? programs.

    Also, I would hate to see these discussions confined to the programs already discussed in prior posts. I know there is at least one frequent reader of this board from the Medical College of Wisconsin. It would be great if he/she could tell us more about their home program. I just don?t think that I could do it justice in my post. I have similar thoughts about Beaumont and U Wisconsin. These two programs have a top 10 presence at ASTRO. Beaumont is a rad onc machine. Their level of academic and research success as a non-university based program is simply amazing. They are really doing something right. I just think others could more accurately depict these programs than I, and that this would be of great value to others. I know that many people read these boards, but that few of us post. Soon many of us will be starting internship, and our window of opportunity to pass something on to the class below us will close. I simply ask that if you have a few minutes, then give us the ?inside scoop? on just one program that you know well.
  26. kryptonite

    kryptonite Junior Member

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    Hi Susan,

    Sorry I can't comment on the three programs you had mentioned in NYC. However, in general, I would say that you can't base the size of the program, however small, or the name of the hospital when it comes to figuring out if the program has a good rad onc dept/rad onc training program and or good technology. Conversely, a university hospital with a good name doesn't gaurantee a good rad onc training program either. for example, columbia and cornell are not ideal places to train. columbia is way behind on technology. they are still using cobalt machines to treat patients. cornell is a program in which residents around the country universally advise applicants to avoid. However, smaller name hospitals such as Mt. Sinai and NYU have solid rad onc training programs. Mt. Sinai is chaired by Stock who is a leader in prostate brachy, (did mayor giuliani's implants) and is a great advocate for students. NYU recently hired a female chair who has done a great job revamping that program. I could comment more on these programs if you're interested.

    k
  27. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    I couldn?t agree more with you XRTboy. We need more people to write in and share their feelings and experiences with these programs. This is such a small field and with the number hits that this forum gets, I find it very hard to believe that no one else has anything to contribute. If you?re worried about compromising your anonymity, then lie about who you are. Say you?re a med student who knows such and such about their home program or heard from a friend who?s at some program. Make a new account and change your name on this forum. It doesn?t matter who you are or that you have to qualify yourself before feeling that you have the right to speak out. All that matters is that what you say is to your best knowledge accurate. I?m not here to start a flame war nor am I looking to get offended by what anyone says. Say what you want about me. I won?t get be bothered. I just want this forum to be a place where we can interact with each other and share any and all things rad onc. Sorry. I just love discussing things related to the field with my future colleagues and this is really the only place I know of online where we can do that. Otherwise this forum will be very boring as it was the past few months. I?m not expecting people to suddenly write in after I?ve said this, but at least know that your opinions are welcome and we?d appreciate it if you would take some time to write in if you?ve enjoyed the discussions we?ve been having. Think of all the prospective applicants out there who have no where else to turn for this kind of stuff.

    I would also like to thank kryptonite for humoring me with the discussion we were having. In the end, who really cares, right? No one is going to feel sorry for Anderson for not being to get the people they want. Nor am I obsessing over this topic. It?s purely for discussion purposes. That being said, I visited MDA a couple of years ago and no one there at the time mentioned any trouble getting the top of the top people which is why it was surprising to hear that. But that being the case, I thought of a question. We all know that Hopkins is so famous as a med school that people will bite the bullet and live in Baltimore just so they can go there. One would predict then that Anderson?s fame as a rad onc residency would influence people to sacrifice location so they can train there. Why then do you think that?s not the case?
  28. G'ville Nole

    G'ville Nole Member

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    Oscar,

    Being a prospective applicant myself (hence perpetually neurotic), I think you hit it on the head. I am tremendously appreciative of the recent discussions about the various programs. All of the aspects covered (e.g. technology, PD stability, openness vs. hostility to private practice) are things that I've wondered about, but did not expect to see addressed until the coming interview season. Kudos to all who have contributed so far!

    From my own perspective, I'd like to echo the positive sentiments that have been shared about Univ. of Florida. Granted, this is the only program to which I've been exposed, but I have enjoyed my interactions with all of the faculty and residents. It's a very laid back group, they seem to strike a good balance between patient care and didactics, and they are technologically up to speed (the addition of the proton unit will be a nice plus, although it will necessitate a little extra travel (to Jacksonville) for the residents). The location, often seen as a negative, can be a little deceiving. A lot of residents who come here to train will stay here to practice, because they find that it really is a nice town (a great place to have a family IMO). I can imagine a bit of culture shock for those who are coming from a large city, and I'm sure that the lifestyle here is not for everyone (one needs not drive very far outside the city limits to find oneself in the DEEP South), but if location is the only drawback you perceive to UF, I urge you to take a closer look.

    Anyway, thanks again to all who have posted with their thoughts on various programs. I eagerly await any other feedback you can provide (perhaps to some of the "second tier" programs).
  29. clueless1

    clueless1 Member

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    I totally agree, G'ville Nole. As a prospective applicant myself from a school where pretty much no one's ever gone into Rad Onc, I would have no place to go for info if not for the generousness of the people who have taken the time to post here. The more info, the better. I also agree that maybe we can get some discussion on less than the top places? I'd love to match anywhere you guys have been talking about, but realistically, given my numbers and school and generally overall average CV (in addition to the competitiveness of the match), it'd be more useful for me to hear about places I might actually have a chance at matching. Any diamonds in the rough, or else places that may not be particularly thought of as a "big name" but where the training is solid? I heard UWisc and MCofWisc thrown around. Anywhere else you can clue us less than stellar applicants in on?

    BTW, I am utterly impressed with the interviews you all were offered...If I ever got 1 or 2 looks from any of those places, I would be bouncing off the walls!

    Thanks again for your opinions, all. Keep 'em coming! And anyone wanting to discuss college football, now there's a topic where I'm confident in myself...
  30. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    I'm very glad that our comments have helped people get a better idea of what's out there for prospective applicants. I can say a few things about some other programs.

    Wake Forest I've visited and they seem like an extremely friendly place, much like Florida I'd say. The chair is as nice as can be. May be the only chair in the country where I feel I could boss him around. That's how nice he is. PD also very friendly. He's also very dedicated to turning the program into an academic powerhouse and it seems like they are doing great things to improve their research, both clinically and in basic science. I remember one of the faculty also said he makes it a goal to publish at least once with every resident. How many people have you met that say that? I think they're also getting a new cancer center sometime soon but I don't remember. Overall though, solid program that is on the way up and has a huge name in CNS as their chair. Location may be a downer though.

    Baylor is a place that will give you solid clinical training. It will of course be forever in the shadow of it's older brother Anderson across the street, but the program seems to stand on its own. The whole medical center is sprawling and dripping with money it seems. The chair is really nice and a big name in peds. I think he used to be the PD or something at Anderson. Another big plus I remember was that they pay you to be on call. Research leaves something to be desired though. They're pretty open with the fact that you aren't going to be big on research during your residency, but if you are so inclined, something could be arranged. They're mainly for clinical training though. Other negatives of course include the location which was touched upon with Anderson. Houston can get very hot and humid.

    Emory was another place I saw. Not too sure what to make of it. Didn't get an overall great impression nor a negative one. Though I've heard some people say some decent things about it, I've heard others think it was not that good of a program. Not sure what they based that on, but their patient volume may not be that high compared with other places. Also, the PD seems rather distanced from the residency program. Again, that's just general impression. No one really had any major complaints. I think they have a 6 month requirement in the laboratory. Location is definitely a plus. Atlanta is a great city with lots to do. Negatives though are that it requires you do your intern year at Emory which I've heard can be rather tough. Grady I think is the name of their urban hospital, and they say it can be pretty brutal, though it may have changed with the new ACGME requirements.

    Columbia was a place I didn't get a great impression from. The faculty didn't seem all that friendly, and the interview day seemed sort of weird overall. I think the program is in general decent even though someone made the comment that they were a little behind on technology. They are pretty big though on radiobiology since Eric Hall is there. I think research opportunities are pretty open. Got a weird impression from the chair though. He's definitely a nice person, but seemed a little odd. A few other faculty members struck me the same way. Still some people regard it as the second best program in NY, if not, third. Location is a big plus, but actual facilities are in upper Manhattan near the Bronx.

    Also have heard good things about both Wisconsin's programs, but have no personal experience so I'll leave it at that. Also good things about Beaumont, and even Wayne State they say good things about also. However, their old chair was Forman who was really their only major big name, and I'm not sure if he's still there, so that may hurt the program. They do have a cyclotron and gamma knife. Location a big negative though, and the DMC is having some financial trouble so that may be a big warning sign.
  31. AlexanderJ

    AlexanderJ Member

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    FYI, there are some more reviews of Rad Onc programs at Scutwork.com. Check it out.
  32. temujim

    temujim Junior Member

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    This thread has been awesome lately. The comments, especially about the middle tier programs that you don't hear too much about, are especially useful. I'm starting to gear up for match next year and any scrap of info is pure gold.

    My 2 cents about location. I've been in Houston for the last 8 years or so. Sure it's hot and humid for 5-6 months of the year (the heat index is 99 today). But there are some definite advantages. Cost of living is dirt cheap out here; you'll have no problem living comfortably on a residents salary. Just looking at the high taxes and pricey real estate in cali, mass, and ny makes me faint. The restaurants are awesome (we're not one of the fattest cities in the nation for nothin'!). Personally, I regard the food out here as better than san fran or nyc. As for cultural stuff, houston has a nationally renowned opera, ballet, and symphony; great museums, etc. I hated it when I first moved out here, but Houston has definetly grown on me.

    Temujim
  33. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    Sorry, meant to say Columbia near Harlem, not the Bronx.
  34. Spyder

    Spyder Junior Member

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    OK, I'll throw in my 2 cents on this thread. Now that it has
    evolved from the rankings of elite programs, into opinions about
    all programs.
    For the benefit of future applicants, not all of which can entertain dreams of matching at the top 10, or even care too, I submit:
    Personally I was just happy as hell to match in this fantastic field. I was very geographically centered. Personally, I haven't
    left the southeast, nor did I want to. I only applied to SE
    programs, and chose them carefully. I only applied to eight
    programs, interviewed at four, so my knowledge of the
    others is scant. In applying, I chose not to apply to Emory, Vandy, or Duke. Apparently I have some kind of problem with the southern Ivy.

    Emory: My understanding was that there was high faculty turnover, and thus not a lot of stability in the program. They are in competition with a lot of very aggressive private groups, and felt that they lose a lot of good cases to those groups. The program is very spread out wrt hospital coverage, so you do not get a lot of interaction with other residents. Another minus is that you are required to do your prelim at Emory. After doing a prelim, and talking to friends that interned at Emory, I just don't think I could have survived. I also grew up in Atlanta and just found the city to be too much. The traffic is hell.

    Vandy: I think that this program may work its way up in the future, but at the time I was applying, it was just accredited. It was a small program, with uncertain facilities and future. My advisor wasn't terribly impressed with the faculty he met at ASTRO. They didn't take ERAS that year, so I didn't bother. A couple of people I talked to this past year who interviewed or rotated there actually really liked the program. Apparently this past year though, they were on the hunt for MD/PhDs and weren't really interested in anyone else.

    Duke: Also didn't take ERAS, and was regarded as a more malignant program. With their snotty attitude, I felt I had a better chance at matching somewhere else, so opted not to apply.

    UAB: Strong program. Lots of good resources and cases. The clinical workload is high. I think they could probably use more residents (they have more attendings than residents). I rotated here and enjoyed it greatly. The faculty is very good, boasting attendings from Mayo and MDA. They are involved in a lot
    of clinical research. They have a good lab, one of the few in the south with alot of active radiobiology. There isn't alot of time for research, due to the clinical workload, though if you were truly interested, they would probably accomadate you. I know they are doing work on radioimmunotherapy if that strikes a chord. Birmingham is a nicer city than I thought it would be.

    Louisville: Growing department, with new faculty and facilities coming in. U of L is very committed to oncology. All oncology departments are housed in one building and they are finishing a devoted cancer hospital. The department is one of the testbeds for tomotherapy. They have also built a cyclotron and will have CT/PET fusion, supposedly with simulation integration. One of the
    faculty has gyn/onc training prior to rad/onc, so should afford some excellent gyn training. With new faculty and a good caseload, has been looking to expand resident training. Very clinically based, but with opportunities for research. Boards are in Louisville, so you get home court advantage. Nice location.

    Wake Forest: Very academically oriented. They tell you at the interview that their intention is to train academic rad/oncs. Very interested in doing functional imaging type stuff with apps to rad/onc. You are not only guaranteed, but required to do one full year of research. With two other rad/onc programs in the state, don't know what the clinical exposure is. The diadactics are
    probably good, considering that WF has one of, if not the best, board pass rates in the country. I personally could have lived in Winston-Salem, though not everyone could thrive there.

    MUSC: Nice folks. Small program. Very limited opportunities for research and they make no bones about it. Mostly oriented towards training clinical rad/oncs. Facilities leave something to be desired, but probably on par with what you might have in private practice. Lots of people love Charleston.

    I also applied to UF, but didn't get an interview (guess the UGA rivalry goes deeper than I thought). Traditionally a very strong program, but the H&N guru is probably retiring soon if not already. I have heard that there are some financial concerns, stemming from reduced state support and increased presence
    of private groups. I would have loved Gainesville personally. Didn't go there, so no personal experience, just rumor.

    The year I applied, UNC, MCV, and UVA were not taking anyone, so I didn't get first hand knowledge about them, but based on my research, would have definitely applied. The Virginia programs seemed especially promising.

    Anyway that is about the extent of what I can add to this post. Cheers! and good luck to all future applicants. Sorry you'll have to endure a year of IM or Surg. After 12 months of misery, I still don't really understand why we have to endure this **** and cant't just start in rad/onc.
  35. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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    this is such a brilliant thread, I thought I'd bump it up to see if I can encourage most input.
  36. cancer_doc

    cancer_doc Member

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    True, UoM has no dedicated brachytherapy, but the "community hospital" you mentioned where they get their exposure is at Beaumont, which has one of the best brachytherapy programs in the nation, in addition to being a very "well balanced" program (it's hard for me to admit that they're top notch because they're technically a non-university affiliated hospital). Dr. Martinez, the chairman, is a renowned Radiation Oncologist in brachytherapy. The program is a pioneer in HDR prostate brachytherapy, partial breast irradiation (Mammosite), and coronary brachytherapy. They do a ton of procedures. I'm not sure how many months UoM residents rotate through there, but I'm sure they get enough experience in that duration than residents in most other institutions.
  37. oscar

    oscar Junior Member

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    Actually, I was under the impression that the rotation you do is at Providence Hospital in Southfield. That's at least what I had heard at the interview. Maybe this has changed in the last couple of years, but if the brachy experience you got was truly at Beaumont, then, yes, I'd say that would be a very good rotation for residents. Can anyone confirm that?
  38. radonc

    radonc Senior Member

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    beaumont is at the top of the middle tier programs. its a great community hospital, a lot of $$ and technology. i know they were doing proteomics about 4 years ago when only nih and i think ucsf were doing it. now everyones jumped on the bandwagon. i interviewed there...fantastic program, great faculty, a lot of hands on stuf....but its a crappy city!
  39. AnnK73

    AnnK73 Member

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    I can post my opinions on MCW and U on Madison. I agree that they are both great programs which would be worth it for anyone to apply to (unless wisconsin is just not an option).

    I really like the faculty at MCW. There are about 10 faculty that are specialized and are mostly very well known in their areas. The clinical research is really good - they are very involved in running and enrolling pt in the big trials. They are also a nice group of people that are interested in teaching residents - altho morning conference attendance isn't always great. The residents seem to be very happy. The work load also seems to be well distributed. There is lots of pediatrics and i dont think that there are any real gaps in the kinds of cases that they see. I think it would be an ideal place to train if you wanted to go into private practive or academics focusing on clinical research. However, I dont think that they have alot of really innovative things going on. I think Madison is a lot better in that regard. Dr. Mehta is really amazing - hes got a lot of vision for the future and they have some great stuff going on. (Like tomotherapy, incorporating advanced imaging into RT planning, and really good basic science being done by the faculty). The teaching seems to be really good there too. I ranked UW above a lot of programs that other people have discussed as the "elite" programs.

    Also, I think U of Chicago has not been discussed as much on here as it perhaps deserves. They dont have quite the breadth of faculty but they have some great stuff going on, esp in the basic science arena. Dr. Weischelbaum's lab puts out really impressive work. And Dr. Mundt runs the program very well. They have pretty intensive teaching too. The residents are very knowledgable as a result.

    Hope that helps a little!
    Ann
  40. UTSouthwestern

    UTSouthwestern 1K Member Moderator Emeritus

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    Your comments regarding "Wally's Angels" reminds me of what I heard of ------. I've heard them called a significantly less flattering term though (--- -----).

    That program seemed to be a very interesting one. It seemed to be very financially strong, being a department that built it's own huge independent facility apart from the main medical campus in San Antonio.


    Note: indentifying information has been editied out by the moderator.
  41. desalmada

    desalmada Member

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    what about the more "middle" programs?

    specifically, does anyone have any opinions about programs like UCLA, OHSU, NYU, Mount Sinai, Fox Chase, MCP Hahnemann, etc?
  42. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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    is now drexel.
  43. Htowngsp

    Htowngsp Junior Member

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    a few words on the Texas programs that aren't Anderson:

    UTMB (Galveston) has a program of nice people in a crappy town. Dr. Colman, the PD, seems very interested in students, but the faculty is small, and with no PET in Glaveston, any imaging research is out of the question. They seem to do a lot with a little. Also, every faculty member here is super involved with organizations. That said, the town of Galveston sucks- a short visit was enough for me- If you can stand the town, then the program is okay.

    Baylor shares a problem with Galveston in that the people who can go to either place can just as easily go to Anderson. Woo seems to run a soli, if small program that was the first to have IMRT in the '90s, but I've heard that since they are a section of radiology, they get shorted on funding.

    San Antonio had a major addition when they got Dr. Hussey (ASTRO board member and RSNA chairman) from Iowa. A friend who is there says the rumors about Herman are exaggerated, and all the other faculty are seen as young "up and comers" in research. However, it also seems like they prefer to take people who have already entered or finished internal medicine residencies, so all the residents are older than at other programs.
  44. UTSouthwestern

    UTSouthwestern 1K Member Moderator Emeritus

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    I heard about Hussey. What I understand is that he's semi-retired and that the position is more for name recognition for the program than anything else. Forgot about the latter part: Herman does like board certified internists as his primary choice of residents. Makes for one hell of a long residency.
  45. cancer_doc

    cancer_doc Member

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    Herman is triple-board certified in Internal Med, Med Onc, and Rad Onc. The vice-chairman, Dr. Thomas, is also triple board certified. Half of all the residents are board certified in Internal medicine, and he doesn't hide his wishes to see his candidates having similar credentials. But I think that has changed recently.

    S.A. is a good program. They just recently finished expanding their facilities. I think they have 6 linacs. Can anyone verify that? Plus their faculty is up and coming. There's one guy that does good brachy.
  46. Htowngsp

    Htowngsp Junior Member

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    My buddy in SA confirms the six linacs, 4 conventional and 2 imrt.

    While we're talking about non-coastal programs can stephew or anyone tell me about Colorado's program? I heard that it's impossible to get into, but is that a function of the program or the location??

    I'd like to set up a subI there, but I don't want to waste the time if I don't have a reasonable shot.
  47. temujim

    temujim Junior Member

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    From what I understand Colorado is a brand new program, provisionally accredited starting july of this year. They're taking two residents for 2005.

    I'd also like to know more info - I've never been to denver, but it sounds like a great place to live for 4 yrs.
  48. jhetta1

    jhetta1 New Member

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    Does anyone have any opinions about University of Minnesota?
  49. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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  50. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator Moderator Emeritus

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