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Interview impressions

Discussion in 'Radiation Oncology' started by stephew, Dec 10, 2005.

  1. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    Ok, here is a thread where you can post impressions of your interviews. Will sticky throughout the season. Make notes to yourself after each interview so they dont get confused in your mind, try to enjoy them, and Good luck to you all.
     
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  3. plentystupid

    plentystupid Junior Member
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    I read what was said about Yale's interviews in the past. I admit my expectations were not high.

    All I have to say is, "WOW!!" I am impressed!

    They came across as a program very research oriented, though maintained an even split between private and academic. New cancer center by 2009, aggressive recruiting in Med Onc, very happy residents, good ancilary support, great salary, minimal scut, interesting research, happy attendings, strong leadership, good technology, family atmosphere... Although they may not have the same reputation as a top 10 program now, I would not be surprized if they achieve such recognition in the not too distant future. I was very impressed.

    downsides:
    - New Haven (can't really escape that one... though you are close enough to boston and nyc, kinda),
    - 20% of time off site about 45 min drive,
    - for now the hospital is not on par with Harvard or Memorial... (though the future seems bright)

    It seems like Yale is taking an aggressive aproach to recruiting.
    And get this... they sent me a thank you note.

    My 2 cents.

    More to come as I make the rounds.

    My only disclaimer: I can't spell. Sorry to all of those who are offended by mis-spellings.

    Cheers.

    - Plentystupid
     
  4. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    nothing? shall i unsticky this?
     
  5. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    I've got several interview impressions prepared, but I don't think it would be prudent to post until after Match Day.
     
  6. SimulD

    SimulD Senior Member
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    I kind of agree, Steph, about holding off until at least rank lists are submitted. We all recognize each other at the interviews, and some of the younger residents may probably know who we are. Heck, my handle is my first name.
     
  7. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    ok fair enough.
     
  8. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    dont forget folks, when the match stuff is in, kindly put on the manpants and put down your impressions here, good or bad. Just be fair and professional about it.
     
  9. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    The rank list deadline has passed! Let the interview impressions commence! BTW, for my take on Thomas Jefferson, see the "Rad Onc rankings" thread.

    As I begin posting this "one review a day" series let me start with the standard disclaimers:

    1. These comments are strictly my opinions -- if you are upset then your opinions are likely more informed than mine (please post).

    2. These comments are based on very limited information (a single day interview).

    3. I'm biased towards basic/translational research -- if you are into clinical/physics research or are interested in private practice, read with a healthy skepticism.

     
  10. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Case Western Reserve seems to be another program that has a negrep on these boards. I went with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Also, I have to give props to both the chief resident (who graciously spent a lot of time talking about his research, grant, and the resident-to-faculty transition) and the chair (who contacted a basic researcher whose work I was interested in and was able to schedule an impromptu meeting).

    Anyway, on with my impressions . . .

     
  11. CNphair

    CNphair Senior Member
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    I'll start out with some mid-west programs...

    1. Michigan - Outstanding program. Dr. Lawrence, the chair, seems to be a great asset to the department. He took time to go over my CV in detail and appeared genuinely interested in making sure applicants would "fit in" to the program. However, more than one person mentioned he was being heavily recruited by MSKCC. That would certainly leave a major hole in the program.
    Overall, great attendings, great teaching, great research. The location was a downer for me...Ann Arbor seemed very nice. However, I am married and my husband would have to find a job in Detroit - not such a nice place. As a clinical researcher, I felt out of place at the interview. The chief resident was very matter-of-fact with the PhD situation. He said it was very hard to enter the program without one...Michigan wants their residents to do basic science. End of story.
    The intern year sucks...something like 9-10 ward months, little-to-no vacation, etc...Michigan is probably worth the year of hell, but it is a hard pill to swallow.

    2. Wisconsin - Another outstanding program. Again, you have to be willing to move to the mid-west. Dr. Harari is a very impressive person and seems very open to residents working in his lab - a great opportunity. The program has a solid clinical foundation with plenty of "high-tech" toys (Tomotherapy). A new hospital is under construction. They do hold "Cleveland Clinic" style conferences, which might be a negative in someone's view. Applicants did not attend the morning conference, but residents were very adamant that it was not malignant. That was the overall tone I walked away with... This program seems anything but malignant with happy, relaxed - yet hardworking residents. Just one question. Why are there no women...anywhere?

    3. Cleveland Clinic - I think this program could provide you with a very solid clinical training. In the past, there has not been much research going on. However, Dr. Suh will soon be chair, and he seemed very interested in changing this. Great formal didactics - they are known for their style of morning conferences. I thought it was nerve-racking, but not malignant. I imagine these residents do great on the oral boards. They are currently remodeling, so the facilities will be much improved for new residents.
    I walked away from CC not really knowing what to think. The residents said nice things about the program - but no one really tried to sell it to us. There were definitely rumblings of being overworked. The attendings I met with were cordial, but not friendly. I just thought it seemed like an unhappy place...maybe I went on a bad day.
    The built-in intern year was better than most. It is actually structured for those going into radiation oncology. While it is surgery heavy, all the rotations seemed to make sense. It did not strike me as particularly painful.
     
  12. CNphair

    CNphair Senior Member
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    Duplicate...sorry.
     
  13. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    UAB is a massive, sprawling urban campus. Frankly, I was very surprised the first time I saw how large it actually was as it takes up at least two dozen or so blocks downtown. With a VA, Charity-type hospital, and regular hospital the patient diversity is 2nd to none. The RadOnc dept has a satellite facility which tends to see more "upscale" patients and has a nice, new TomoTherapy unit. Anyway, on with my original impressions . . .

     
  14. CNphair

    CNphair Senior Member
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    I agree with almost all of Gfunk's assertions about UAB. However, I did not get quite such a bleak impression regarding job prospects. I think Dr. Bonner is doing a lot of great work within the department. The academic opportunities are there - I got the feeling that past residents have just been very private practice oriented. I also think the program is well-respected outside the South. I have heard good things about the training program from people far removed from Alabama. The total lack of diversity most likely plays a part in residents staying in the region...most of the residents are Southern and have established families.
     
  15. SimulD

    SimulD Senior Member
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    Northwestern

    Location/Facilities: Outstanding! Streeterville/downtown Chicago. Walking distance to the Mag Mile and close enough to the red line train. Automatically, it jumped into the top group for me :) You get affordable parking if you live a certain distance from the hospital (~2 miles). Otherwise, you either pay a ridiculous amount or take public transport. The nice thing is that if you know Chicago, to have a parking space in that part of town is gold. You can walk to shopping, tons of restaurants, the lake/beach, nightlife (Rush/Division). It's a beautiful hospital, one of the nicest I've seen. Rad-onc is still in the basement, though, no windows. There's a Starbucks and Au Bon Pain in house.

    Equipment: they have all the "standard" stuff (IMRT, CT sim, stereotactic, HDR suite, etc.). No tomotherapy, but they do hyperthermia. Have tons of money, so they'll always be up to date. Someone mentioned going in with the other Chicago programs for proton, but that's a long ways away.

    Clinical Volume/Patients: So much volume. Not all of the patients have a resident, and in the past, they did and the volume was considered too heavy. They said they've toned it down. I think the one thing that I was a little disappointed with was that the Lakeshore VA stopped doing XRT, and now send all the patients to Loyola's VA about 20 minutes outside the city, so you don't get that population. Peds is strong, b/c of the affiliation with Children's - one of the premier medical centers in the country. The rest of the patients are private, and tend to be biased towards upper SES.

    Faculty/Residents
    : Very nice faculty, interesting to talk to. Mostly mid-career. Seemed pretty interested in resident teaching/research. Dr. Small is probably the 'star' of the group, he's very cool and is happy to have residents around. Chairman is pretty new, seems to have a vision for the program. Friendly group of residents. Took us out to a bar post-interview, and they were an interesting, diverse group. They seem to get together a fair amount for social activities. They like beer, so we had that in common.

    Research/Academic-ity: They don't force academic medicine down your throat. They do want you to do research, and even get into the lab if you can, but it isn't U of Chicago. Not a whole lot of protected time, maybe up to 6 months. Most of the residents end up taking private practice jobs.

    Feel: Very comfortable. Seems like a really great place to work and learn. I'd be super happy there, and I'd be able to fulfill my career goals quite easily from there.
     
  16. jb2

    jb2 Member
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    Bring the posts on! More, more :clap:
     
  17. jb2

    jb2 Member
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    I'm looking forward to hearing reviews from these places listed in the top 15 in Rad Onc Rankings thread.

    Number 1
    MDACC (without a doubt)


    Numbers 2-3
    MSKCC
    Harvard

    Number 4
    Michigan (superstar program)

    Numbers 5-7
    UCSF (mainly based on reputation)
    Chicago
    Stanford

    Numbers 8-11
    Penn (moving up)
    Yale (moving up)
    Wisco
    Wash U

    Numbers 12-15
    Duke
    Florida
    Hopkins (moving up)
    Mayo
     
  18. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Well, I guess you'll have to tap plentystupid for input on these specific programs since it was his ranking . . . :)

    Anyway, program impression #4 is University @ Buffalo (Roswell Park Cancer Institute). I remember reading on the SDN forums that they did not gain residents in the regular Match a couple of years ago b/c their rank list was too short. IIRC, they picked up residents subsequently in the Scramble.

    So when I visited I was not expecting much, but let me tell you that this place absolutely blew me away. The introduction by Dr. Kuettel (the Chair) was among the best I've seen on the trail. In brief, there are three major, relatively unique advantages to this program:

    1. Intern year is integrated (Prelim IM @ UBuffalo): During this time you will fulfill all of your MedOnc/PedOnc requirements for residency PLUS take two months worth of RadOnc rotations in the department. This way, a lot of what you do during your intern year actually counts towards the 36 months of required clinical time during PGY2-4. This way you have up to 18 months to do whatever you want -- basic/clincal/physics research or even rotate through private practice clincs.

    2. PAs are heavily integrated into the department: This means that residents will be free to pick and choose interesting/relevant cases (or do all of them if they so desire). However, they will be doing the new patient consults and sims primarily and will be freed up from a lot of the scutwork which the PAs will cover.

    3. In-house radiologist: This guy is employed by the department so you will have an expert in imaging sitting right next to you. No more grudingly going up to the Radiology room . . .

    The drawbacks of this program are (1) little name recognition at present, (2) Buffalo is cold and snowy, (3) tough intern year with a lot of q4 and ICU months.

    Here were my original thoughts:
     
  19. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Alrighty then, on to impression #5. If you guys don't mind, I'm going to ditch the old format and just go for a free-form review of . . .

    University of Pittsburgh (UPMC)

    Have you ever seen the Incredible Hulk? UPMC kind of reminds me of that show. On the surface, the residency program appears small, mild-mannered, and slight. However, upon digging deeper, you will see that underneath lies a raging, radiation-powered hulking behemoth of a department. For reasons that are unknown to me, UPMC has a tremendous cancer center (and hospital, for that matter) attached to a relatively small RadOnc residency program (only 4 residents at present). In fact, they mentioned that their residents are not strictly required to run the clinics b/c the faculty have operated so long without them. To me, this is a big plus, b/c you can immerse yourself in as many patients as you want as well as have free time for research.

    Can't say too much about the city, though I'm sure that others with far more experience can chip in here (paging SimulD :)). One word of warning though, the airport is deceptively far from the city so be prepared to pay upwards of $60 for one-way cab fare. If you come at a reasonable hour, there is a city-run shuttle service available for like $7.50 or so. Pitt is definitely one of the nicer cities in PA outside of Philly.

    The faculty were very nice during the interview (with one exception -- more below) and many of them are world-class experts. UPMC absolutely *owns* CNS tumors and has multiple GKs/CKs in addition to faculty who trained under the master, Lars Leksell, himself. Dr. Greenberger (chair) came off as rough during the interview however. Residents who ate lunch with us did some damage control and assured us that he was a tremendously supportive chair but he had an aggressive interviewing style. Applicants who were MD only got the, "well we are really looking for an MD/PhD this year," line and applicants who were MD/PhD got the, "well you would really be better off at [insert other RadOnc program]." You can't win -- so don't take it too personally. The PD (Dr. Burton) is a very engaging and nice person to interview with, in sharp contrast. Residents also heap praise on him stating that not only is he an extremely hard worker but also very humble (gotta love that combo).

    Research opportunities are prevalent and available. One of the residents was nice enough to take me to the basic science labs as we went 'a searchin' for radiobiologists for me to talk to.

    The only negatives I perceived were (a) small program [they are petioning for more residents, but so is everybody else], (b) CNS expertise >>>>> all other forms of cancer; however, unless you are on an academic track with the intent to specialize in something other than CNS you should be fine, (c) one hostile interview experience [but explained away to my satisfaction].
     
  20. Thaiger75

    Thaiger75 Senior Member
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    UPMC was the only program that I interviewed that I was THIS close to walking out of after interviewing with the chairman. The interview lasted literally 5 minutes and the bottom line afterwards was: Thanks, but no thanks for coming.

     
  21. Michael Spiker

    Michael Spiker Junior Member
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    Of all the programs I interviewed at last year, U of Pitt was the only program I did not rank. I did not want to be there, even if that meant not matching in rad onc.

    The chairman was absolutely unpleasant. As mentioned in previous posts, he basically told me that they were not interested in me and that I had no shot at matching there. The interview day was a chaos with no organization. Residents could only talk about how many "connections" they were developing while they were there, and I felt that academic pusuit was not the core of the department.

    I wish I knew all of this before I spent $600 to fly out there and stay o/n in terrible Pittsburgh weather.

    Incredible hulk? I think not.
     
  22. plentystupid

    plentystupid Junior Member
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    I promise they are on their way...

    I will post them in batches.

    Sorry for the delay... Research and rotations have been keeping me from posting...

    They are on their way...

    - PlentyStupid

    PS Thanks for the nudge Gfunk6!! I am looking forward to our toast!!
     
  23. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    To be honest with you Thaiger, I kind of felt the same way about 3 minutes into the conversation.

    According to the other applicants I interviewed with that day, many of them basically reported having the exact same thing said to them.

    No problem -- I hope Match Day will be kind. Otherwise, I may have to go back and take down all the negative things I wrote. ;)
     
  24. trublu

    trublu Junior Member
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    The apparent: I think MDACC is generally regarded as a good place to train because it is quite strong clinically. The combination of 4500+ patients a year and expert faculty leaves little lacking for residents in terms of teaching. They're also very deep technologically, with protons now icing the cake. Their research isn't something I hear mentioned often, but it is quite good, too. They have energetic and talented investigators in their Experimental Radiation Oncology division (Milas and Travis, to name a couple).

    The not-so-apparent: The above factors are what probably put MDACC at or near the top of so many of the lists on the referencd SDN thread. For me, though, what really set it apart were the following:

    - Dr Buchholz, the PD, seems very kind to his residnts. He periodically has them over to his house to socialize. He encourages them to slow down and enjoy life.

    - Dr. Cox, the chairman, is also good to his residents. He seems to know each and every one of them on a personal level. He's been known to go to bat for them when needed. He seems much more accessible than you'd guess a person in his position would be.

    - The faculty are friendly and personable. We all had a real enjoyable chat with some of them over a beer at a local pub after our interviews were over. Drs. Cox and Eiffel were particularly easy to get along with.

    - The residents are relatively relaxed. Their attendings aren't 100% resident-covered, which allows them to focus on one service at a time. Consequently, their work hours are relatively good. The one exception to this mentioned was their time on the GYN service, when procedures keep them busy. In general, though, they have opportunity to read, to go out, and to have lives. They seem pretty happy.

    - They've had a nice mix of recent graduates going into both private practice and academics.

    - There's a good amount of current interest in research. Approximately half the incoming residents over the last few years have been MD/PhD. Some have very impressive publication lists, and some are in the Holman pathway. They are happy to have residents do research in their division, but there are no barriers to going outside the department or the institution.

    - Although NOT required, there is a prelim year available for their residents. It involves 6 months of traditional medicine prelim work at UT Houston, and 6 monts at MDACC. The MDACC time is spent doing research (1 month) and floor work (5 months) with the various onc services in the hospital. The MDACC time is billed as a great learning opportunity. The rad onc department is the only one in the cancer center with a residency program, so your interactions are exclusively with fellows and attendings. You interview for the prelim year during on your rad onc interview day, and don't need to apply for it.

    - Houston, though it has some drawbacks, has some perks as well. The cost of living is quite low considering the size of the city. There are good neighborhoods for both the single- and the family-types. Southwest makes it easy to fly in and out for vacation.

    That's it. Perhaps someone else can offer a counterpoint. I was impressed.
     
  25. SimulD

    SimulD Senior Member
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    So, the chairman has a ... personality. He makes everyone feel pretty much inadequate on interview day. It's exactly what's been described - whatever you are, he tells you that's exactly what they don't want. Dig a little deeper, and ask some questions of him, and he'll give you very real answers. He's a brilliant man, high-powered, millions of ideas, and a very mischievous sense of humor, and I think that's what frustrates people. One of the residents that is currently there was point blank told by Dr. G that she would not be there next year, thanks for stopping by. I know it's unnerving, but I think it's hillarious. I enjoyed my little battle with him. First question he asked me was: "How much debt are you in?" He told me I was a moron for borrowing money to go to private college and medical school. We went back and forth, and it was kind of fun. Maybe one day I'll be messing with your children's heads on interview day :)

    From what I know from talking to faculty post-interview day, most of the interviewers have a vote, and it's a somewhat democratic process. I believe Dr. Heron and Dr. Burton may have a bit of a stronger voice. The two new faculty, Dr. Beriwal and Dr. Smith are way into teaching, and have been helpful to me recently as an advisor.

    UPMC is a monster system. It's cachet is Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia panhandle, and northwestern Ohio. It has a top-notch Cancer Center, 1000s of beds in the main medical center, incredi-nomas and fascini-tis from across the NE and Midwest. As for as money, it's one of the few medical centers way, way, way in the black. All the ancillary staff always joke about how much money the system makes off of their backs.

    They have the - drumroll please - seventh most money from NIH in the country. Put that in perspective ... Yes, it's not all cancer money, but basically, if you have an idea, UPMC will foot the bill. Interns in medicine are pushed to do an entire month of research intern year, and more during second and third. The rad-onc program gives you 6-12 mo year to do whatever you want with - outside electives, specialty electives at Pitt or local private hospitals, lab/bench work, clinical research, and even an MBA in one case.

    GFunk is a research guy, I'm a clinic guy, but this program didn't make me feel inadequate about my interests. They seemed supportive.

    They did not get the additional spots that they applied for, from what I heard.

    Pittsburgh the city ... well, e-mail me and we can talk. I'm favorable towards it, with caveats.

    -S
     
  26. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Woah, the boards have been acting pretty wonky lately.

    Anyway, my next impression takes place at . . .

    Henry Ford Hospital

    A couple of things stood out for me before I even stepped foot in the department. First, they offered to put me up at the very posh St. Regis Hotel which is very close to the Medical Center. Surprisingly, other applicants I met that day told me that they had to foot their own hotel bill -- so the moral of the story is, if you interview here make sure you tell them that you are staying overnight in town.

    The second thing was from a research point of view. Dr. Freytag has brought a nice gene therapy model from the bench into clinical trials. I won't bore you with details (except to refer you to the following articles if you are interested: PMID: 16290236 and PMID: 14612551). This is one of the rare places I visited where the RadOnc deparment is making some nice basic science breakthroughs (rather than MedOnc).

    Sadly, it was heavily snowing the day that I arrived and it was so bad on interview day that everything was delayed b/c some of the faculty couldn't make it there on time. To make things worse, the department offices were in the midst of renovation so the "offices" where we interviewed were little more than cobbled together plaster walls. I mean, it looked bad but I thought I would reserve my judgement until I talked to the faculty.

    My first interview was with the chair Dr. Movsas (recently moved from Fox Chase) and it went very well. He was very enthusiastic about the work of Drs. Freytag, Brown, and Kim and was pushing the point that his was one of very few RadOnc Departments who have successfully taken a basic science innovation to patients. He seemed enthusiastic about letting residents do research. My next interview with Dr. Brown (in Radiobiolgy/Physics) went even better! We talked about the literature and he explained to me in detail the innovations in the department.

    That's when everything started tumbling down. Talks with other faculty brought me back down from my fluffy cloud.
    "Sorry, but residents can't really do research here."
    "Four months of research is all we can really offer you."
    "If you are really serious about research, you need to do a post-doc."

    *SIGH*

    I find it a great pity that residents can't really partake in serious research in a department where it is very hot at the moment.

    Detroit is not exactly a safe city, though the area around the hospital is *relatively* safe. I have a good friend who is an EM resident in Henry Ford and he reported no problems over the last few years. Most residents live far outside the city in many of the nice suburbs in Oakland County. Speaking of which, the residents themselves were very nice and cordial to us though nobody particularly stood out in my mind. Patient population tends to be on the poorer side so you will see great pathology (e.g. late stage cervical cancer).

    Great place if you want to do private practice or (perhaps) clinical research.
     
  27. irfanmd1

    irfanmd1 Junior Member
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    Thanks Simul for the balanced view of UPMC Rad-Onc Program. I have worked with Dr. Heron and Dr. Burton for a few months during a elective rotation in Rad-Onc and as a volunteer doing research with Dr. Heron in 2003.
    I know them enough to say that they both are excellent!!! Very decent, caring and supportive of the residents. Easy to approach and discuss topics, and plenty of oppurtunity for clinical research, if one is interested.

    The staff is very helpful and pleasant to work with.
    Overall I believe the UPMC Rad-Onc is a good program with great potential!!

    -Irfan
     
  28. SimulD

    SimulD Senior Member
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    Weird. The board keeps saying more replies, but I don't see any past mine about Pitt. What's up with that?

    -S
     
  29. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    I had the same problem, but it seems like the powers-that-be have cleared it up. Anywho . . . .

    The next leg of my travels had me leaving the then-snowy Midwest behind for the Big Apple. Unfortunately, there was that whole issue of a looming transit strike at the time. Like an idiot, I guessed (well not totally, I have a relative in the NY Transit Authority who passed along some info) that there would be no way the transit workers would strike. On my first day in NY, thankfully, that was true . . .

    NYU Medical Center

    The interviews were held in the NYU Cancer Institute (NCI designated) in the heart of Manhattan. It was quite a new construction (in fact the showed us some videos during the pre-interview talks) and a gorgeous building to boot. RadOnc occupied the ground floor for faculty offices and (no surprise) the basement was where the linear accelerators were housed. In addition to the NYUCI, the department runs services in Tisch Hospital (a few blocks away, basically a major tertiary care center) where they have a few machines and Bellevue Hospital (you'll see the advanced pathology here mostly). So clearly, they are not short on patient diversity.

    As I was looking over the interviewer list they had given to me that morning, I was struck by how many faculty had multiple graduate and/or professional degrees. I mean, these weren't just your run of the mill MD/PhD's . . . no, no, no . . . these guys were more like MD/PhD/MBA or MD/PhD/JD. I kind of wondered how one could use so many degrees but I chose to stay mum on the topic. The instruction in radiobioloy is one of the great strengths of the department -- Dr. Rosenstein also teaches at a couple of other places (Mt. Sinai and MSKCC, I believe). They haven't had anyone fail the Radiobio part of the boards in a long while (if ever).

    Interestingly, this was one of the few programs where I openly talked about the Holman Pathway with the PD and Chair. The good news was that they were definitely willing to do it and the bad news was that they probably wouldn't seriously consider it unless they got two slots this year instead of one (which I don't think they did) :( . Still, they would give everybody six months of research -- not much, but better than what some programs were offering up until this point.

    I liked the residents quite a bit, they were very talkative, easygoing, and happy to answer any of our questions. NYU will provide you with nearby subsidized apartments for $1200/month (doesn't get much better than that) though availability is not guaranteed. A few residents are from the NY area and have been here for a while (either in med school or undergrad) and seem to know which areas are nice to stay in.

    Overall, I think that this program is quite solid and the Chair (Dr. Formenti) really seems to want to steer it into a more academic direction (interestingly, one of the junior faculty actually joined after a brief stint in private practice).

    On an rather amusing side note, I was chatting with Dr. Formenti's secretary before my interview and discussing the transit strike.

    Her: "I'm pretty sure those guys will strike. It'll be awful, tons of gridlock . . . and during Christmas shopping too."

    Me: [confidently] "Trust me, it'll never happen. I have a relative in the NYTA and he tells me they always posture like this with the City to get their way."

    Her: "Really, are you sure?"

    Me: "Oh absolutely."

    Fortunately, I wasn't there precisely 24 hours later when the strike happened. :D
     
  30. CNphair

    CNphair Senior Member
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    Duke: We have all seen the previous posts concerning Duke's malignant reputation. For the most part, I think that is overblown. However, there are definitely some strong personalities. I think the happiest residents are those with a "laid-back" style...capable of ignoring the sometimes harsh tone. Duke does have a formal attitude...don't expect to be on a first name basis with the attendings.
    However, the frequent presentations required of residents (in which you MUST be prepared to actively defend your positions) and high patient volume create a very strong clinical program. The residents surely ace their oral boards and are highly recuited by private and academic centers.
    The chair, Dr. Willett, seems to be a great resident advocate...something that has been missing in the past. He is also dedicated to bringing the residency program up to the highest level. I think he would be very open to any resident with strong research interests.
    I do not believe the reputation for "lacking technology" is fair. Certainly, the program does not hold the equipment of programs like MGH or Stanford. But the main department does house five lin accs, cone beam CT, two conventional sims, all things brachytherapy, IORT, dedicated CT and MRI scanners, and a large hyperthermia suite. The VA experience is also very strong with regards to brachytherpay training. Duke was a little (ok, a lot) behind the game when it came to IMRT. However, the faculty seems to be making a concerted effort to make up ground in this area.
    Overall, I believe Duke offers a very strong training program. Applicants just need to be comfortable with the confrontational style of many faculty members because that won't be changing anytime soon...
     
  31. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    So as I was sitting @ home (staying with my parents in Northern NJ for NY interviews) I found that the transit strike had indeed started. Since I had a 2nd interview in NYC the next morning I set out very, very early to avoid traffic on my way to . . .

    Albert Eintstein

    This department has undergone a major transformation lately. For quite some time it was wallowing in obscurity until they recriuted Dr. Kalnicki (from Pitt) as Chair. He then started hiring new junior faculty including the PD (from MSKCC) and a brachytherapist (fellowship at HROP). One issue that kind of shocked me was to find how bad things had really gotten prior to the transition. For instance, I'm sure that many of you know that RadOnc residency is treated like an apprenticeship of sorts where a resident follows the patients of a faculty member for two to three month blocks. @ AECOM however, residents covered clinics rather than an individual faculty's patients. This caused problems with residents being overworked, lack of continuity, and lack of concentration in specific organ sites.

    Starting 1/06, the apprenticeship system was adopted by the PD. Unfortunately, we hardly saw the residents on interview day. Though they were supposed to drop by the conference room to chat, hardly anybody came until the PD got on the horn and "encouraged" them to get up there. Not a good sign.

    On the bright side, I had a very good interview with the Chair as we discussed some of the potential future problems in RadOnc. The PD also had a great attitude of, "we know your stats are good so I would just like to spend this time getting to know each other and see if we are a good fit." I particularly enjoyed talking with Dr. Guha who is doing some serious basic research with residents (I really liked his heaptocyte transplantation studies -- PMID: 15849463).

    The main hospital is kind of old and run-down but they have a newer clinic (which we did not get a chance to see). They are also putting in a CyberKnife for some intra- and extra-cranial RS.

    The Bronx . . . meh. Kind of a boring neighborhood, not really what you would expect from NYC. But then again, most people see Manhattan as NYC.

    Overall a decent program that was recently injected with vitality by faculty acquisitions. However, it is impossible to look at their track record since they have so recently implemented these changes.
     
  32. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    So departing the snowy east coast I turn westward to make my last circuit of interviews. To start I begin all the way in the bay area @ . . .

    UCSF

    Let me throw some extra caveats in before I start this review. (1) I did a rotation @ UCSF over the last year, (2) I will be looking @ UCSF on its own merits rather than comparing it to places I never went (e.g. MDACC, MSKCC), (3) I had a lot of time to talk to residents about the program, their future job prospects, etc.

    The main strength of this program is, without question, the residents. These guys are absolutely at the top of the applicant pool every year and if you talk to them for 15 minutes, you'll see why. Not only are they extremely well-versed in all things RadOnc (the senior residents were just incredibly knowledgeable), but they all have very interesting and unique life stories to boot. Many have a high-level of involvement in various extracurriculars and, being in the bay area, there are clearly no shortage of these.

    Ultimately, two important measures of the strength/success of a program are in the job placement of residents and the pass rate/scores for the certification exams. In both areas UCSF shines -- their residents routinely get the pick of the litter from a very competitive private practice market and can basically go wherever there are spaces in RadOnc academic institutions. Exam scores are routinely in the 75th percentile+ for Physics/Radbio.

    Research has always been strong in both clinical and physics @ UCSF. As far as basic research goes, the department itself doesn't exactly have premiere radiobiologists. However, Dr. Roach (Chair) mentioned that he would prefer residents who desire a basic research experience to do it outside the department. As you probably know, UCSF is 2nd to none in terms of sheer research strength and diversity in biomedical sciences. Residents get ~ 11 months of time to do research and this can be blocked together if desired. There are four faculty members in the department who do a lot of bench work (3 of whom are 80% lab/20% clinic) so you will find mentors for an academic position.

    Finally, UCSF has some of the best attendings in the world for various treatment sites including prostate (Roach), CNS (Larson, Sneed), and Peds (Wara, Haas-Kogen). They have ~6 Linacs plus a GK and CK. In a city with the size and diversity of SF, you will be seeing all manner of patients. In the same day I've seen homeless folks come in with Stage IV head/neck cancers that they've neglected for months and affluent suburbanites with a PSA < 4, GS = 6, who debate the attending about various treatment modalities (they've read the literature).

    *whew*

    I thought I should begin with the positive b/c UCSF seems to have gotten a bad rap on SDN. However, in fairness, here comes the bad stuff IMO . . .

    Though everyone is happy that Roach has assumed leadership, I think many would say (not openly) that the department kind of stagnated under Wara. A lot of tech advances were not acquired quickly and some faculty began to become apathetic towards the residency program. This means that some attendings will not actively teach residents unless you solicit them to do so. Attendance at resident conferences was also lacking historically. Really, you were lucky if one attending showed up (hopefully an expert in the organ site you were discussing).

    The department has two locations, one in Parnassus and one in Mt. Zion. While the latter is quite new and very nice (the main HQ) Parnassus is kind of old and run down (this is where the GK, CK and most of the CNS stuff is done). This will not likely change in the near future b/c both Neuro-Oncology and Neurosurgery have their offices/clinical facilities near Parnassus.

    A lot of these things, particularly the residency program, are predicted to have drastic positive changes in the near future according to faculty and residents. I agree that this is good, but should be taken in perspective as other posters mentioned.

    I could say a lot more, but I think (hope) I've provided a balanced view.
     
  33. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    personally don't think you can say anything kinder re: the Bronx.

    I will add I like Dr. K very much,.
     
  34. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    After a late dinner with the residents and chair @ SF, we all retired for the evening. Sadly, I had to wake up obscenely early in the morning (~3:30 or so) to get to SJC and catch a flight to . . .

    William Beaumont

    As I was driving from the suburbs of Canton (relatives) to Royal Oak I passed by a historical landmark, 8-mile road, a subject frequently rapped about by Eminem. Suffice to say, I was willing to take his word that "8 Mile on Novara" was a shady party of town. I hit the accelerator.

    Beaumont is situated in wealthy Oakland county in the suburbs of Royal Oak, surrounded by equally (or more) wealthy suburbs. Just looking at the hospital made me think their patients were probably skewed towards the upper income tax bracket -- what with both Henry Ford and WSU in the city proper. I was very impressed walking through the hospital -- everything was immaculately kept and it was very aesthetically pleasing.

    When I finally found the department, I was surprised to see that medical students were previously interviewed there that morning (I had an afternoon schedule). I guess I can appreciate the faculty wanting to condense the whole interview season into one or two days, but half a day to see a department is not very much. As an aside, let me go ahead and give a shout out to all of the Michigan med students whom I met on the trail -- there sure were a lot of you, particularly that day!

    Anyway, where was I . . .

    Oh yeah. So the residents took us on a brief tour of the hospital. This place is pretty sweet with a huge garden (artificial) newly constructed in the center, a jungle gym for the residents/peds patients to play on in the department, and flat screen TVs in each patient room. I was somewhat disappointed that we were to eat lunch in the cafeteria that day until I saw that it was a sit down affair with menus and waiters/waitresses.

    Dr. Kestin (PD) then took us on a tour of the department prior to interviews. I won't bore you re: the tech but I will say that Beaumont has pioneered a lot of advancements in IGRT and it shows.

    At my interviews (esp. with the chair. Dr. Martinez) one positive thing really stood out. These guys are *aggressive* about research. Not only do they give you a full protected year to conduct it, but they provide you with close mentorship and fully expect you to publish -- multiple times. Case in point, 8 of 8 residents had first-author abstract at ASTRO 2005 -- pretty remarkable achievement for both PGY-2's.

    Historically, their research has all been physics/clinical based but with the acquisition of Dr. Wilson who heads their Radiobiolgy labs, that should change soon. As a private research institution, they are able to bypass a lot of the red-tape/bureaucracy that has traditionally plagued public facilities. My interview with Wilson went quite well as we had similar research projects under our belts.

    One of the (many) innovations in resident education at Beaumont is the fact that they encourage all residents to hook up early with a clinical "module." These "modules" are teams of clinical researchers working on one organ site. By introducing yourself early, you will put yourself in the pipeline for churning out case studies, protocols for clinical trials, etc. Also, their integrated PGY-1 year (transitional) is pretty easy with only 4 months of q4 and 1 month of ER (10 hr shifts). The rest is basically 9-5 with few weekends.

    The residents were nice, but my limited time with them precluded me from drawing any substantive conclusions.

    Overall, a very strong program that is usually considered in the top 10 or at the top of the 2nd tier. They are applying for a resident expansion (like everyone) but they really have the patient volume to easily accommodate this. They have about a 50/50 split of residents going into private practice vs. academics. On a final note, the RadOnc dept has a ton of political clout in the hospital as it is the most prestigious division in the whole medical center (vying with Cards and Optho [Retina]). For instance, Dr. Martinez basically runs the brachytherapy suites and pages the Urologists when he needs them. At most institutions, the reverse was true.
     
  35. jb2

    jb2 Member
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    I thought we would have more than 2-3 people posting impressions. Where is everyone who had interviews?
     
  36. ch22

    ch22 New Member

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    i was reading the thread today and i read the last thread about people not posting, from the first hand exp of applying, i felt that i should take the time to post my honest impressions given the paucity of rad onc info out there for all of us, but....i got an email quickly after posting (read below)....

    ****
    SUBJ LINE: you don't know me but I ran into one of your clasmates on the Rad Onc interview circuit....

    I just read your interview impressions on Student Doctor.

    I am going to recommend for your own career safety to get a new screen name.

    Or just be more careful with what you say. I would not want something like
    this to come back and bite you in the ass if and when you go looking for a
    job in Rad Onc after training.

    Good luck with the Match!!!
    ****

    so these are probably the reasons why people arent posting interview impressions.....absolutely psychotic...
     
  37. jb2

    jb2 Member
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    so these are probably the reasons why people arent posting interview impressions.....absolutely psychotic...[/QUOTE]

    Paranoid?? I don't think that it's that serious. Isn't it true that 90% of residents go into private practice? I don't think that there are any private docs on these forums. And should you want to go into academics (let's just assume there are some academic docs on the forum other than Stephew), what are the chances that you will end up at their institution with them remembering some interview impression from 5 years previously? And if they hold a grudge for a medical student interview impression, you probably wouldn't want to work there anyway.
     
  38. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    You had some very interesting (and fun to read) impressions -- it's too bad you decided to take them down. However, I certainly don't fault you for doing it as I was wrestling with the same issues myself before I posted.

    No doubt you lose your anonymity when you post here regularly -- but the field is so darn small that there is no really avoiding that. To be honest, I've probably met at least six users who frequent this board face-to-face IRL and I've figured out the identities of more than that based on the information that they've posted.

    However, there is one important point I would like to convey despite the loss of my anonymity . . . all of my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. Through PMs I have gotten unbelievably candid advice from residents (hell, even faculty) who frequent these boards. I have asked and received answers to questions that I would never dream of posting on a public board. In addition, many users have dropped me very encouraging notes thanking me for my opinions and efforts to empower applicants.

    Another thing that compelled me to post it the fact that population of SDN is frequently skewed by over-achievers (e.g. I have a 267 Step I, junior AoA at a top 5 med school, and MSTP . . . do I have a chance in RadOnc?). If you look at the average scores posted in the USMLE forums, I think you will be inclined to agree. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but it is useful to also get perspective from a more "average" applicant (though, I must admit, in RadOnc this is still pretty damn good).

    If you look at the rapidly increasing "views" column on the Radiation Oncology forum page, one can see that this thread gets 100s of hits day (mostly from readers who haven't even registered a screen name!). Though I would like to see more people post, I won't be upset if you don't for the reasons ch22 cited.

    Let me echo jbs'2 comments however -- if someone is so sophomoric as to hold a grudge b/c of what someone wrote on a message board, then you probably wouldn't want to work with them anyway.

    Finally, at the risk of sounding like a self-righteous a-hole, I think that programs DO get wind of what is posted on this site. And I think some programs have made modifications in response to negative comments posted on these boards in the past. So if a program mistreats you or does something you know scares away applicants then it would be constructive to point that out (nicely).

    Best of luck to all of you and thanks for putting put with my rant. :)
     
  39. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    While I hope that this thread remains, primarily, about the impressions rather than becomes a tangent about the risks of posting, let me say this: it is true that some PDs and attendings at programs read this site or at least hear about it. Its a public site. HOWEVER 1) SDN respects the privacy of its users and barring legal requests for information (i.e. a criminal investigation) respects this privacy- i think the privacy statement is public somewhere on this site. 2) in truth, barring your saying something totally over the top, most folks who scan these sites and who somehow manage to know who you are will likely not remember you three weeks from now let alone come job time. In fact many are hard pressed to remember students who spend a month with us simply because there are so many people in and out of their professional lives.

    Towards the extent that you take heed about what you say as an appropraite lesson in professionalism and fact that yes, you are doctors and yes there are consequences to behavior including not just you express but how you express it, that's a good thing. But while it may be hard for a student so under the microscope now to believe, the truth is that most things said here, barrin the outragous, will be forgotten pretty quickly in the real world.
     
  40. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    Perhaps if someone would like to collect several impressions from other users, create a user name that is unique for the purpose, and post them?
     
  41. plentystupid

    plentystupid Junior Member
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    RE: Gfunk6
    This is becoming a wonderful trend, Gfunk6 I totally agree with you about this being good feedback for programs in addition to sharing information amongst peers. I also sympathize with those who post a lot end up loosing some of their anonymity. (most people can figure out who I am based solely on my poor spelling and writing style) I have already been confronted by two such individuals.

    Additionally, I am not a "superstar" candidate either... and have demonstrated some of my controversial opinions. Never the less, you all can count on my continued postings despite my fears about the upcoming match.

    RE: ch22
    I read both ch22's prior posting and the changed one, aka the email.

    At first I admittedly freaked out that someone could email me about one of my posts... then I calmed down and remembered the principles of free speech, echoed in what Stevew wrote. We can say anything we like, but we must take responsibility for it. I believe that I do take responsibility for those words I have written and continue to write. And much like Gfunk6, I have received interesting discourse and good feedback in response.

    Admittedly, because I am new to all of this posting business, I thought that ch22 simply moved their posting and looked up ch22's prior posts... this is where I stumbled upon the likely reason for the email ch22 received. It seems that ch22 left their email address on a prior post. With that information, I would have probably done the same thing and emailed ch22 to let them know that they were exposed... So I guess I should change my name from “PlentyStupid” to “AbsolutelyPsychotic.”

    I also enjoyed ch22's impressions. So, I say express your right to free speech, ch22. Embrace the responsibility for your words and repost your impressions. That being said, I can definitely understand withdrawing them considering that your email address is readily available to anyone who reads these message boards. I am not so sure I would have been as candid in some of my responses if I had signed one of my postings with my email address.

    RE: Stevew
    With all due respect, although I completely agree that most people have thick enough skins to take both constructive criticism and mild poking, the part of the message board that makes such comments more difficult to “forget” is that a message board doesn’t forget. All statements are posted and then kept as a public record in perpetuity baring alterations of the post. When I forget what I said about a particular program, I can go back and revisit what I wrote. And so can everyone else. I thoroughly support the call for professionalism in all of our postings. I feel by and large we have accomplished exactly that with only very few exceptions. Strong work!!!

    All this being said, I will follow through with my promise of posting my in-depth review. I hope to have the first batch ready by Friday.

    Best of luck to us all!!!!
    Almost one week away... I'm already getting palpitations.


    - PlentyStupid (aka AbsolutelyPsychotic)
     
  42. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Taking a late flight from DTW to MSP, I landed in Minneapolis around midnight. The airport was very nice, but absolutely huge. Of course, I was deposited at the terminal that was as far as possible from baggage claim :thumbdown: . . .

    I made it to my hotel ~ 2 am after getting lost all over the city. Exhausted, I plopped down on the bed in preparation for my interview @ . . .

    University of Minnesota

    When I walked out the door of the hotel, it was cold. Not just *brrrr*, golly it's kind of nippy out here, but cold that bit to the bone. I just figured it was Mother Nature's way of saying, "Welcome to Minneapolis . . . beeotch!"

    I arrived @ the department to see all of the applicants arrayed @ the conference table with food/drinks aplenty and residents to pass the time. Unfortunately, the PD was actually hospitalized that day (nothing serious thank goodness) but he wasn't available to conduct interviews. So they gave us our list of interviewers and kindly offered to escort us to their offices.

    My interview with the chair went awesome . . . for about 7.3 seconds. After the usual, "how are you and did you sleep well," I was hit with, "You don't really think residents can do research do you?"

    I was at an utter loss to answer this question. As you can tell, I am clearly opinionated, but I didn't want to flush my chances of matching totally down the toilet. I tried to muster an answer as I was collecting my thoughts, "Well . . . uh . . . you know . . . at other schools they . . ."

    It didn't get much better for me after that. It seemed that for every opinion I had, she had the contrary position (e.g. Transitional vs. Prelim). Whether through bad luck or karma my interviews with the next 2 physicians went equally poorly.

    Just when I was about to give up all hope, I met with the head of physics. This was, ironically, the best interview I had on the entire interview trail *period.* I've once heard charisma defined as, "a trait where a person makes you feel better about yourself." Well, let me tell you, after talking with this guy I felt like I could be the president of ASTRO. My interview with the chief resident went okay, though he kept trying to tell me how Minnesota would provide one with all the tools to make some serious bling in private practice.

    The residents were very nice on the whole and easy to talk to. They took us to lunch at a local place and we had a blast, with some applicants even offering to set up a meeting @ a B-ball game that evening.

    The city itself is remarkably clean and modern -- though obviously bitterly cold. They have a very nice sky bridge system, so you don't have to walk outside much even if you leave the hospital. Apparently, people use the bridge for exercise as well, which was kind of interesting.

    And the school itself? Well, let me echo the chief's sentiments, "if you want to do private practice this is one of the best places to train." No arguments from me.
     
  43. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    Well folks, that's all the interviews I had. It was fun reminiscing about all the fun (sort of) times I had running around the country and answering the question, "Why RadOnc" over and over and over.

    But seriously, after the Match (hopefully) provides a blanket of security for us please consider sharing your impressions. I know that last year's applicants were tremendously helpful to me, I hope we can do the same for the next crop.

    To my fellow applicants, I wish you all the best and I hope the anxiety of Match pays off handsomely. :luck:
     
  44. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    Someone suggested I put on a pair of manpants and collect your impressions via PM and post them here as is done in ophtho. So that's fine with me. If anyone would like to send me impressions, I will post them for you so that youre anonymous. Obviously I will know who PM'd them to me. Your other option is to create a separate account just for that purpose and post them yourself.
    Setph. Good luck all.
     
  45. plentystupid

    plentystupid Junior Member
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    Penn
    Location: In the heart of Philly... Perhaps not the safest of areas of Philly. But you gotta love this city. Seems like most people live in the neighboring nicer areas like center city and Italian market area. The housing market has significantly inflated over the past several years but several areas remain affordable. I believe the city is still offering tax abatement for those who buy within the city and live there for more than 3 yrs. I loved taking a tour of the city with was rich with culture, history, and nightlife. I completely fell in love with the Italian market. Location is definitely a HUGE plus.

    Faculty: Every faculty member I met with was absolutely top notch. Most notable is their newly crowned chair, Dr. Hahn. I would rank him up there with Dr. Lawrence and Dr. DeWeese for being the ideal balance of personable, brilliant, passionate and compassionate clinician scientist who would make an amazing mentor. They have a long list of distinguished faculty and it looks like it may be getting longer with firm plans to increase the size of the faculty. I had a difficult time reading the PD but looks like she may be leaving. I don't know who will replace her. On the whole, Faculty is even a bigger plus than Location

    Residents: Very friendly group and easy going; All of them are very satisfied with Penn; in fact they claimed they were "the second happiest residents in the country." (they claimed that the top honor goes to the folks up at Yale) I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the residents. They seemed like a great group of people who I would be perfectly happy working with and learning from. Another HUGE plus!!!

    Facilities: Alas, the lone weakness in their armor. the facilities are sub par for the caliber of their program. But this is all moot as the new cancer center is due to open in 2008-ish. This new center promises to address many of the issues with the physical plant that leaves much to be desired currently. With the possibility of protons by 2009, this center may completely and utterly overshadow the other Philly programs, if it doesn't do so already. Resident rooms are non-ideal, but they will hopefully improve soon. Facilities, as is, are a minus.

    Scut Level: The residents seemed to say that they had at least a significant level of scut work with bouts of high depending upon rotation. Additionally transcription service takes up to weeks at times. This may all be moot as well because the new chair is hiring some patient coordinators and possibly improving the transcription service.

    Program: On the whole very strong across the board. Good blend of private and academic (50/50) with sincere focus on training first and foremost excellent doctors. Great family atmosphere. Great support and mentorship for research!!! They will take you on as a one year fellow after completion of your training if you want... WOW!!!

    The Drawbacks: significant issues were the newly required in house medicine internship and currently some of the residents are dangerously close to not meeting the minimum requirements for the ABR. (per resident: some members of the graduating class had logged around 451 cases) This problem may be fixed with the addition of new faculty and the new facilities.

    Summary: A great place to train no matter what you are going into. I would be absolutely thrilled if I end up going there to train. This program is great and will only get better.

    - PlentyStupid
     
  46. plentystupid

    plentystupid Junior Member
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    Status:
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    Hopkins
    Location: In the heart of East Baltimore under the protective shield of Hop Cops... Perhaps one of the most dangerous areas of the country at one point. But Hopkins has bought up a lot of land and made tremendous effort to improve the neighborhood. The rest of Baltimore is FANTASTIC!!! You gotta love the city. Seems like most people live in the nicer areas like Federal Hill, Canton, Mount Vernon and Charles Village. The housing market is amazing right now. Salti Balti is a great place for the couples and singles. The city was rich with culture, history, and nightlife. Location is definitely a plus. (but admittedly less of a plus than philly)

    Faculty: I was unfortunately slightly disappointed with the seemingly limited good mentorship. This was a weakness mentioned to me by faculty, residents, and fellow interviewees. On a plus note, their newly crowned chair, Dr. Deweese, is wonderful. He is a fantastic balance of personable, brilliant visionary, and passionate clinician scientist who would make an amazing mentor. They have a short list of distinguished academic faculty as they are only a new department. In the end, you have to put your faith in the "Hopkins effect." The department may not be a top ten program right now, but give them ten years and they will be giving programs like Harvard a run for their money. They have some new faculty members who promise to bring more mentorship to the residents. As seen, faculty is ok but under phenomenal leadership.

    Residents: Not quite as outgoing and friendly as the Penn residents but wonderful people none-the-less. They seemed easy going; With some/most of them being satisfied with their experience at Hopkins. Some of them claimed that they, "did all the work with little or no help from attendings." I imagine this was an exaggeration of the facts but this is what was said on tour.

    Facilities: WOW. Leave it to Hopkins to make one of the most amazing cancer centers I have seen after MDA and MSK. WOW. I was blown away. Their facilities are the shining highlight of their program. Resident rooms are fantastic with every resident given their own laptop. Facilities are a HUGE plus!!!

    Scut Level: The residents were unanimous in saying that they had a high level of scut regardless of rotation. They seemed to imply that nothing was going to be done to "fix" that issue in the near future. That the administration felt this was a central component to their training.

    Program: On the whole solid with some areas that need improvement, most of whom will be addressed by the "Hopkins Effect". Not very much of a family atmosphere. Much more on the formal side.

    The Drawbacks: Mentorship, research (although much effort is going into improving it), scut, attending-resident relationships, I seemed to remember something about their number of lung cases being disproportionately low (though I may have been confusing this with another program)

    Note: I wouldn't necessarily place this in the drawback category... But, the program seems quite adamant against the investment in and use of protons. Their research is much more focused on current tech improvements with no plan to incorporate protons.

    Summary: A solid place to train no matter what you are going into. Hopkins name can't be beat. Although not my top choice, I would be happy to train there. This program is good and will definitely get better.

    More to come... so stay tuned.
    If I may have missed some things, please let me know.

    Good luck to everyone!!!

    - PlentyStupid
     
  47. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
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    god i have to disagree re: baltimore. My vote for most boring city and a minus in that sence but its cheap and you can live well. Not bad with regard to traffic.
     
  48. Impressions

    Impressions Membership Revoked
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    I agree with many others that using your own account is a better way to go about it.
     
  49. stephew

    stephew SDN Super Moderator
    Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    thanks "impressions".
     
  50. alphacentauri

    alphacentauri Member
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    OK, I'll throw in my thoughts on some of the programs I really liked, in no particular order, since I need an excuse to procrastinate on studying for step II.....

    U Florida: I haven't spent too much time in the south, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I ended up being extremely impressed by this program. The pluses: The faculty here are fantastic, some of the nicest I met anywhere. Dr. Amdur just took over as chair in January, and is also the program director. As he put it, "there won't be any conflicts between the chair and program director here." No one really seemed to anticipate any major changes with the chair turnover. The program has several other big names in the Mendenhalls, who are also both extremely nice. This is one of the only programs I interviewed at where the faculty and residents seemed to socialize together outside of work. The residents were also extremely friendly and spoke very highly of their program. They seem to have strong research opportunities (more clinical research than bench), and most graduate with at least a couple of papers. They have a required department research day every year that the residents present at. The clinical experience really seems to be top notch, especially in head and neck which is the department's strongest division. Also a good place for peds, and should be getting even stronger in peds with the proton center opening soon. With the proton center going in in Jacksonville, they have pretty much any technology you could ask for. The interview day itself is pretty laid back, with 3 panal interviews. They were the only panals I had where I felt like I could actually relax and enjoy it. The minuses: The location is a drawback for me - although Gainesville itself seems like a decent town, you are really, really far away from everything. The nearest city is about 60 miles away. For your Jacksonville rotation, you either live in Jacksonville or commute a long ways each day (and don't think about driving fast - the area has some hard-core speed traps!).

    Stanford: Absolutely fantastic place. Very research oriented, both basic science and clinical research. The residents get about 9 months of research time. With a major research university right there, there is certainly no lack of potential labs for research projects if you're looking for basic science. Currently I believe 9/12 residents are MD/PhD, so there is definitely an emphasis on training potential academics. Stanford is historically known for it's strength in lymphoma, but is also pretty much strong across the board in all sites, whith no major areas lacking. With Varian nearbye they tend to get all the new toys early - no protons so far, but they pretty much have everything else, including a fairly heavy cyberknife service. The attendings are all extremely nice and generally seemed quite interested in teaching. Stanford has a couple of big names in Hoppe and Donaldson (Leibel is at Stanford as head of the cancer center, but not particularly involved in the dept from what I've heard), and also quite a few up-and-coming junior faculty who seem quite interested in resident education. Formal didactics seem to be a bit on the light side, which could be a plus or a minus. The vast majority of faculty (all but 2, I believe) did their residency training at Stanford - not sure if it's a plus or a minus, just something that's noticable. The physical space is one of the nicest I've seen - Stanford has a brand new, absolutely beautiful new cancer center, complete with a grand piano and fish tank. The interview day is extremely well run, but long - 11 30 min interviews per applicant. As far as location goes, the Bay Area is truly outstanding for anyone who wants a blend of great outdoors activities, great weather, and a good culture. SF is 40 min away, Tahoe is nearbye, there are running trails and biking trails right outside your door. Of course, you also pay for what you get - housing prices are unbelievable. You're not likely to be buying a house on a resident salary.

    OK, I'll try to post a few other reviews later - must get back to studying...

    -AC
     
  51. eidolon

    eidolon Member
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    Here is a sample of some of the places visited. Hope this is helpful.
    Most of these places have been discussed in depth in previous years so I won’t reinvent the wheel here but simply to add a few of my own thoughts. I thought the following threads were particularly helpful while I was applying:
    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=42456&page=1
    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=42456&page=5&pp=25
    Perhaps my impression of some of these programs was slightly affected by reading the postings prior to the actual visit. However, the concensus opinion on the forum was fairly reflective of how I felt about the programs afterwards. That being said, I will certainly welcome any corrections and comments.

    In no particular order . . .

    Michigan: This is a great program, largely due to Dr. Lawrence’s visionary leadership. The degree of support Michigan offers their residents was truly impressive. Dr. Lawrence is MD/PhD, dually trained in heme/onc and rad onc so he aspires to train radiation oncologists well-versed in all aspects of cancer care who will advance the field through research. This vision will likely reasonate with a lot of applicants entering the field these days. The department has had several successful Holman applicants in the past. However, none of these individuals has yet to secure any K08 funding to my knowledge (which is a bit puzzling). Dr. Lawrence expects people to conduct primarily “translational research” or something with direct application to radiation oncology. This stipulation may be problematic for some with experience and interest in the basic sciences. Michigan also has a great physics department with an in house planning software. The department enjoys a lot of support from the school since several high level administrators are affiliated with the department, i.e. Dr. Lichter and Dr. Pierce. Residents appeared down-to-earth, laid-back and happy. Rumors on this forum in the past claimed that the work-load is pretty heavy, especially during internship. Did not get this sense at all during the visit. Granted, they may work harder relative to some programs but compare to surgery or some branches of medicine, the lifestyle is still quite tolerable. Grads tend to gravitate towards academia in recent years and land top notch jobs. Many have chosen to remain at Michigan. Ann Arbor is expensive for the mid-West yet compared with the coasts, it is still quite affordable with enough fun things to do. Plus, residents get an additional 6-7K (forget the exact figure) bonus every year around Christmas on top of their salary (not sure why they don’t just increase the base salary). Very impressed!

    Wisconsin: Another great program . . . Madison, being the capitol of Wisconsin, surprisingly had a more “small town” feel compared to Ann Arbor. Madison also gets a lot colder in the winter. Dr. Mehta is a leader in tomotherapy and the PD, Dr. Harari, is very supportive of research, albeit not the Holman Pathway. The program will allow residents to extend their training by 1-2 years with funding to pursue research. This option guarantees everyone gets comparable clinical training. There is a new Cancer Center in construction. Someone commented there appeared to be no women in the program—an observation that did not escape our notice. There was one female faculty but no female residents. Socially the theme revolved a lot around sports and beer. Not sure if this will change in the future but interviews consisted of two panels lasting approximately 15 minutes each.

    MD Anderson: MD Anderson has been continuously praised on this forum and it is abundantly clear why. The institution is like the Death Star—overflowing with technology and opulence. The faculty and residents are really energetic and fun to hang around. They clearly all enjoy working with each other and at MD Anderson. The interview is a panel with 9-10??? members of the selection committee—sort of like arguing in front of the Supreme Court. Dr. Cox is a dynamic leader and a great advocate for the residents. The program director, Dr. Buchholz, is likewise fantastic. This is the home of The Red Journal. The new proton center, scheduled to open this spring, will be only one of a handful in the nation and boasts the state-of-the-art pencil-beam technology (correct me if I’m wrong but I believe MD Anderson will be the first center with this capability). Resident education is a top priority here. While the patient population is huge, not all patients are covered by residents so the workload is actually lighter than at some comparable institutions. I suspect that with the new proton center, the patient population will only increase. “If you build it, they will come.” The department also holds a boards review course and has one of the best series on teaching planning and dosimetry to the residents. Awesome conferences where the entire department turns out in throngs. Good food, low cost of living, and relatively warm weather even during the winter. I did not get a great sense of the research opportunities here but was told that in the past, residents have taken advantage of labs at nearby institutions such as Baylor. With such enormous resources, you could probably do just about anything within reason. Grads are highly sought after, both in academia and in private practice. There appeared to be at least one junior faculty recruited from MD Anderson at many of the places I visited. Barring any geographical or personal factors, I could see this program at or near the top of anyone’s list.

    Harvard: After the merger between the former Joint Center and MGH, it is really difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint any weakness in the program. Residents do have to move around every 6 months or so which may be inconvenient since you don’t have a permanent cubicle and have to transport all of your belongings every time you move. Aside from that, this program appears to have it all—proton beam, large peds population since Children’s Hospital is part of the Harvard conglomerate, well-known attending with several existing data bases. Patient load appears heavier on the MGH side than the BWH side since residents cover an entire service at MGH vs working with a specific attending at BWH. Teaching is pretty good, although the residents spend a fair chunk of time preparing for case presentations. The PD appears to be very supportive and is one of the creators of the Holman Pathway. Hence, the Holman Pathway, or research in general, is highly promoted here. Residents get 1 year of protected research time, the most at any of the institutions I visited. They have the option of completing a MPH over at the School of Public Health during this time. There seems to be a good mix between those doing clinical outcome research vs bench. Some residents have even done research “off-site” at other institutions so the possibilities appear to be endless. There is a strong push for an academic career and the current senior residents have choices of several of attractive offers (even those going into private practice!). This is a large program, if not the largest in the nation, but a large percentage of the class each year seems to be comprised of Harvard students (2-3) and those who have rotated here. Aside from the bitter cold and high cost of living in Boston, this is one of the most versatile, academically driven programs that could easily top anyone’s rank list.

    Duke: The “malignant” reputation appeared to be largely a thing of the past. The new department chair, Dr. Chris Willett, was really nice and uniformly praised by the faculty. He helped to revamp its physics department and introduced IMRT to Duke. Duke has always had a strong radiobiology department. Traditionally, residents appeared to gravitate more towards private practice. At least on the day I was there, attendance at the conference and lunch appeared low. The department has a disproportionate number of faculty trained at the former Joint Center. Extensive comparisons were drawn between Duke and the Harvard Program throughout the day which was a bit disconcerting. This is a fine program that should stand on its own merits rather than comparing itself to something else.
     

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