How Helpful is AOA?

Discussion in 'Radiation Oncology' started by Little Brother, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. Little Brother

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    Hi everyone,

    I know that the match for Radiation Oncology can be both difficult to predict and competitive, but I was curious to hear from members of AOA how much they feel this honor helped them in the process (interviewing and matching).

    I know it's difficult to predict why or why not one did not recieve an interview, but was just curious how people felt about AOA (since I hear so much about Step I, research, and PhD being important factors in matching).

    Thanks
     
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  3. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Check out the match stats for Rad Onc here: http://www.nrmp.org/data/chartingoutcomes2007.pdf

    152 US seniors applied in 2007

    31 were AOA (~20% of applicant pool); of these 30 of 31 matched (97%)

    121 were not AOA (~80% of applicant pool); of these 94 of 121 matched (78%)

    So you could conclude that your chances of matching w/ AOA are 20% greater than the typical applicant . . .
     
  4. KYLove

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    Unfortunately that is a weak conclusion since it fails to account for the confounders (including high board scores and/or other variables ) that may be criteria for election to AOA also may be important for selection into Radiation Oncology. I think we could mostly agree that people who are AOA with little to no research are at some (although perhaps not significantly) disadvantage to a non AOA MD/PhD from a solid school. Anyone wanna run a multivariate on this? :)
     
  5. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Well I italicized the "could" to reflect the weakness of the argument. It obviously hasn't been subjected to multivariate analysis, but it's as hard a number as the OP is likely to get.

    However, consider a grand total of 4 out of 152 US Seniors reported "no research" I don't really see that as a factor though your general point is well taken.
     
  6. SimulD

    SimulD Senior Member
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    I'd say that AOA people probably have higher board scores and do more research (especially Junior AOA) but who knows? I don't know where I saw this, but I thought that MD/PhDs tended to have worse board scores, but matched much better. In any case, AOA is not a bad thing to strive for. There isn't much you can do to obtain this other than dominate your classes. I think it's interesting that it's a national organization awarded on a school by school basis. AOA @ Harvard means a lot more than AOA @ Hollywood Upstairs Med, dontcha think?

    *** disclaimer: I was not AOA
    -S
     
  7. Pewl

    Pewl The Dude Abides
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    But, surely Dr. Nick is AOA! :eek:

    I can see where AOA and rad onc candidate qualities don't necessarily overlap. My school bases AOA off of the number of honors credits you earned and the amount of leadership/community work you've done. As a lab rat or research fanatic (a common rad onc applicant trait), it can often be difficult to kiss enough butt during clinical years or memorize enough random factoids to stay 1.5 standard deviations above the mean during the pre-clinical years. Hopefully the rad onc programs will look at applicants as a whole!
     
  8. MHotep

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    Radiation Oncology programs are on a continuum. At one pole there are research oriented programs and at the other pole there are the clinically oriented programs.

    AOA, IMHO, gives little additional information to what one can gather from the transcript and dean's letter: great grades relative to your classmates. From a geeky cancer bio approach, AOA is equivalent to a good tumor marker: it's a quick and easy way to identify clinical excellence--if you're too lazy to read the entire transcript. For the clinically oriented programs you are in good shape as an applicant: you have read the textbook, you can regurgitate it, and you can appropriately and efficiently assess and manage patients.

    However, research oriented programs care more about ones ability to add new information to the textbook. That cannot be found in the transcript or the AOA designation. To be honest, even publications are not a wholly accurate way to measure scientific acumen. You can publish well as a student without contributing to the project intellectually. This is where the letters of recommendation separate the men/women from the boys/girls.

    Bottomline: there is no "magic" bullet...but AOA is probably a biggest non-magic bullet that you can have in the revolver (97% match rate!? That's better than Family Medicine)
     
  9. RetroX

    RetroX New Member
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    I was not even close to being AOA... I was more like BOB. All the AOAs in my school went into pediatrics and orthopedics.

    If AOA is the only thing you've got, then I say it wouldn't help. But if you have other stuffs besides AOA, it certainly would help.

    I ranked the following things based on my experience:

    1. school reputation
    2. research and publications
    3. Step I scores (huge variation depending on schools, > 220 on average)
    4. Letters and interview
    5. MSTP
    6. AOA and Clinical Grades.
    7. All the rest.
     
  10. yeasterbunny

    yeasterbunny crazy in the coconut
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    I would disagree a little bit with your top picks. A strong #2 can make up for weak #1, but not vice versa.

    As for AOA, like everything else it will largely vary by program and program director. One of the first things my chairman asked me when I went to him the first time was whether I was AOA, before we ever talked about research or scores.
     
  11. RetroX

    RetroX New Member
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    True... the order is relative, and each school varies greatly. There are two groups of schools: 1) Those that favor research heavily. 2) Those that favor clinical aptitude greatly. Those in group I consists of around 15 or so programs. The rest are in Group II. Schools in Group I are more likely to care about research, publications, and MSTP; where as Group II schools are more likely to care about school reputation, AOA, and scores. There are of course some overlap between those two groups.

    To have a unifying ranking system for all school is like grouping adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the anal canal into one single category, which is, at best, erroneous....
     
  12. echod

    echod Junior Member
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    Could you tell us what 15 or so programs favor research heavily? Thanks a lot!
     
  13. RetroX

    RetroX New Member
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    Michigan, UPenn, Vanderbilt, Yale, Alabama, Harvard, MD Anderson are good examples.
     
  14. StanGetz

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    I'm pretty disappointed that you failed to provide a p-value, or do any kind of multivariate analysis to control for those confounding factors. And you call yourself a radiation oncologist?!?!

    I will now use an emoticon that makes no sense for this message. :idea:
     
  15. bcl2

    bcl2 New Member
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    The only thing I can add is that I was Jr. AOA and it only came up 1 time during all 14 interviews so I didn't feel like it helped me that much. Still nice to have though.
     
  16. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    :slap:

    Heh, sorry my bad . . .

    In my defense I am a radiation oncologist in training so I have not quite learned to bow before the all-mighty p-value.

    Still I ran the numbers and for a two-tailed test and assuming equal variance the p-value was . . . drum roll please . . .

    0.014

    Sadly I don't have enough stats to run a multi-variate :)

     
  17. Little Brother

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    Thanks for all the replies.

    Interesting that many think AOA is a plus, but not ultra important, yet the stats show that of the 31 AOA applicants, 30 matched.

    Def lots of confounders (AOA is often awarded to people who test well and thus have high Step Scores and may be strong applicants besides their AOA).

    Clearly AOA in the absence of a strong Step I score and research background cannot make one a strong applicant, but I wonder if its a superficial way to screen applicants, and thus increases the number of interviews
     
  18. RetroX

    RetroX New Member
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    A lot of schools do not have AOA system. AOA is not used as a factor to screen applicants, at least in our facility. But AOA people usually have good social skills, and hence good interviewers. Hence the 30/31 match rate.
     
    #17 RetroX, Dec 17, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2008
  19. HalJordan

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    Thank goodness. I think that it is a terrible practice to screen patients on such criteria.
     
  20. medgator

    medgator Senior Member
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    I don't think AOA is as important as it is in other ultra-competitive specialties (ortho, derm, urology etc.) That's just my 2 cents. Rad Onc programs value research much more IMO.
     
  21. cgk

    cgk Member
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    Although I'm not AOA, I have almost all honors in MSI &MSII years. Lot's of reasearch including a 2 year stint at the NCI yielding a first authorship in JCO.
    265 on Step 1 . My weak link is the blowout my 3rd year has been thusfar with only passes in Peds and Surgery. In your experienced, honest opinion, how damaging is this as an applicant next year, to match into RAD/ONC ? thanks for your input.
     
  22. RetroX

    RetroX New Member
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    Honestly, no one cares if you get a "Pass" in surgery... we all know how malignant general surgery can be, and frankly, there is a reason why we picked radiation oncology and not general surgery. Some elite schools may ask you a question or two about this during the interview, but no one is going to exclude you from an interview with the stats you have thus quoted.

    But if there is a trend of getting "Pass" in all of your third year electives, and then you may want to address that problem in your personal statement, i.e. give a reason. One or two "Pass" won't affect you much.

    Hope this helps.
     
  23. Pewl

    Pewl The Dude Abides
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    How about 1 or 2 honors, 1 or 2 near honors, and the remainder pass? =P
     
  24. IndyXRT

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    I agree. It could raise eyebrows if someone had stellar board scores but consistently got "Pass" on clinical rotations. Not that you need to get all "Honors" or anything. It's just that a large discrepancy between board scores and grades on clinical rotations could lead someone to wonder if you're good at taking tests but not at clinical work.
     
  25. TOMOrrowTherapy

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    The dean at my school just showed some of us a printout of the % of honors per rotation that different schools give out. The variability is astonishing. There was one school in the south (I wont' say that name) that gave out over 80% honors for each rotation!
    Other schools gave out anywhere from 25-60% honors.

    Will rad onc residencies take into account written evaluations for 3rd year rotations as well, not just the final grade?
     
  26. IndyXRT

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    Your observation about differing proportion of honors handed out is true. That's why medical schools include a section describing the medical education (GPA vs. H/HP/P/F vs. something else). This includes graphs of the proportion of each grade given out, so that you can spot the schools handing out a disproportionate amount of honors.

    The comments for 3rd year rotations are included as part of the dean's letter.
     

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