jchernan

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I recently had a change of heart in terms of what specialty to pursue. I was going for gyn oncology, then realized lately that I couldnt do four years of ob just to get to 3 years of onc. Oncology is the entire reason I came to medical school. My medical school (U of Mich) proposed to set me up with a year long research opportunity within the dept of Med Onc or Rad Onc. I will spend my final M4 rotation on Rad Onc this year. I want to pursue Rad Onc b/c I think it is the most direct career path to pursue my goal and am attracted to their approach to cancer. My preclinical grades were mainly honors. My clinical grades were a mix of Honors, HP, and P's (indicating my indecisiveness on career path). Step I/II were 240 and 235. Would the year long research help. Should I pursue Rad Onc, or is it that competetive? I would be shooting to a mid to low tier Rad Onc program (if that exists). I decided not to scramble this year and stay on for another year, but I am conserned that a year of research may not help me too much. What are your thoughts??? Thanks in advance to anyone who responds.
 

Gfunk6

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I'm an MS3 soon to be an MS4 so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I think a year of oncologic research can only help you. If you do it in a RadOnc Dept, then all the better. Your stats seem quite strong, easily within reach for virtually all RadOnc residencies.

Since RadOnc likes research so much, I think dedicating a year to it will go a long way to helping you match. Best of luck to you!
 

scootad.

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Im a MS4 graduating in may and what i will say is 2nd hand info so take what i say with a sprinkling of salt 'n' peppa.

Make sure you publish and/or get letter from a well known person in rad onc. You have your medical school's rep going for you & decent boards. Also try your very hardest to be AOA.

I was scared off from applying to rad onc (non-AOA top 30 school 245+ step 1 & 2) for a variety of reasons some of which were 1) I was not AOA 2) I had no rad onc research. maybe i sold myself short but i wasnt willing to take a risk or a year off for research and liked rads enough to go for rads.

good luck! maybe some of the regulars (like pikachu/simulD/ursus) who actually went through this process could give you better info.
 

Cytokine

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I was in a similar situation last year. I decided to do a year of research in Rad Onc after graduation rather than apply as a fourth year student because I didn't think my application was strong enough, primarily because I had no research. The research year really helped me...I got a great LOR, a publication, and I matched. Your boards/grades are similar to mine. I went to a top 50 med-school and wasn't AOA. I think you would have a great shot at matching. Just apply broadly...I applied to every ERAS program.
 

doc05

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first off, congratulations on deciding against ob-gyn. it's a terrible field and there are other paths to being a cancer doctor. a year of serious research will only help you for residency. if you like rad-onc, then go for it. You might also think about medicine-> heme/onc. Good luck.
 

SimulD

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So ... I had a pretty similar situation, but not at as high ranked school (Tulane). 240s Step 1, waiting on Step 2, top 1/3 of class (many honors pre-clinical, HPs and Hs in clinicals), good letters and extra currics, but 0 research.

I thought about what you want to do - 1 year of research, but decided to roll the dice. I applied broadly, and interviewed/ranked at 7 places, and thought I made a good impression. I ended up not matching ... it's still a bit heartbreaking, but looking back, I am almost positive I would have matched with some research, especially if I took a year off. So, I'm going to get some research done before internship, hopefully do a little during the year, and give it another go ...

So, all in all, I think we have similar stories, but you're going at it a different way. I think with a year of research and some good letters from UMich faculty, you are going to be an excellent applicant.

... next part doesn't totally relate, but it's been in my head ...

After doing the interview tour, I picked up on a few things. The same people were going to the same places. The hotshot applicants were going to all top programs, i.e. at the UCLA interview, everyone was from top 10 med schools, and 3 had just gone to the Harvard interview the night before, and everyone knew each other. I knew no one ... a little overwhelming!

The rest of us go to our regional mid-tier programs (i don't believe in a low tier for rad-onc), and we see each other at pretty much all of them (in my case: Ford, Wayne, Loyola, etc.). There is some overlap - that's why I was at UCLA, and that's why superstar hotshot girl was at the Wayne interview. But not too much "mixing" :)

So, I feel in terms of applicants, there are three groups, and I realize this is solely based on observation. I'll start with this - almost every student in all three groups are top 1/3 or higher in their class, and have 230+ on step 1. What that means is if they are normal, nice human beings that can hold a conversation, they can match in almost any field (save for Derm and Plastics), and I find that impressive. There's some outliers in terms of stats, but they may have PhDs or good # of pubs, but I'll leave them out for simplicity's sake. So, here is the groups ...

1) Surely match 2) Decent chance of match 3) Most likely won't match. The #1 group matches, if they go on their 15+ interviews and rank them all. The 2nd group will get 10-14 interviews, and if they rank all programs, there's a really good chance of matching. The 3rd group gets 0 to 9 interviews, and is playing roulette, but still can match if they interview well and make a good connection.

Now, to tie it back together, to move from group 3 to group 2 is the critical transition to make. And that's where research comes in. That's where you get the critical mass of interviews, if you have a baseline amount of research (radonc, medonc, radbio, biophys, then everything else). Also, this is where LORs come in, especially famous names. There's a thread with these names - make sure you have at least one of those. Going from 2 to 1 is even harder, and it takes AOA status, ridonkulous step scores, MSTP from a top school, etc. Basically, everything everyone else has, plus something that just sets you apart.

With almost every program on ERAS, if you really want to be a rad-onc, there is no reason to not apply to every program (you've already spent $100,000-$200,000 for med school, what's another $10k?), unless you are group 1. Then, when you overshoot and get 20+ interviews, you can be somewhat selective. If not, go to all of them, and rank them all.

Anyway, that's my theory ... I'm sure people may disagree, but I think the field has gotten so difficult to get into, that you need certain threshold items on your application to have some certainty. And research is definitely one of them.

Simul
 

lonestardoc

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I felt that you pretty much have figured out how the matching process works for radiation oncology (at a very broad level). I think that there are always individual exceptions. I would add that there are probably a large number of applicants with <5 interviews and they will end up not matching or matching at their home institution. I would make that group 4.

I think it might of hurt that you are coming from a medical school with no program. Don't get me wrong Tulane is a solid medical school in a fun city. However, as you realize it is tougher to get the necessary exposure. If you went to a lesser medical school with a program and planted yourself in the department and did research (worked your tail off) you would have been golden (with a few caveats listed below). So I think a few of the group 3 and 4 people are going to match having done that.

Unfortunately, you need luck also. (1) The smaller/lesser program has to have a spot open during the year your applying. (2) They should like you. (3) They don't like one of your classmates who is equal or weaker than you (another group 3 or 4 student).

I have a good feeling that you will match next year. Thanks for your honesty in your posts.
 

matched

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Well....I think you sold yourself short. I didn't have any of the things that SimulD listed and I matched----I also only ranked 4 programs (I only applied within one state). The best thing for you to do is away electives---and really work hard. Set up electives---and see ahead of time if there is some research that you could do while you're there.

1.I had no fancy LOR---I had 3 from attendings I felt I really had a connection with. They wrote heartfelt letters.
2. I did 2 away electives and a research project at each. I'm not published.
3. There is no program at my school.
4. My board scores were above 90%, but not in the 230's.
5. I'm not a PhD

There is no correct formula---if there was there would be no question as to who matched. Do away electives and make sure they like you. That is the best advice anyone can give.
 

radiaterMike

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matched said:
There is no correct formula---if there was there would be no question as to who matched.
Since it is kind of relevant to today- this sounds like the selection committee for the NCAA basketball tournament.

To all who matched or scrambled into spots- enjoy the day!
 

radonculous

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Trust me. If you're at Michigan and you do research in a big name lab for a year and get some good pubs you'll be money. Get letters from Dr. Lawrence and any of the other big names there (Eisbruch, Sandler, Pierce) and program directors will be calling you offering to wash your car. Numbers don't matter as much as dedication to the field, letters of recc, research. Also, Michigan is a very big name in radonc. In my opinion, it's a million times better to get into *any* radonc program and at least become a decent private radiation oncologist and enjoy life and have an interesting career than become a bitter surgeon or medical oncologist. And with research, decent numbers, and strong letters of rec, and coming from Michigan, you'll do fine. :cool:
 

stephew

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well radonculous, id qualify your comments. I know many people with CV's more impressive than you could imaging who didnt rank in the top choices because of qualities that dont get assessed on paper. Program directors are not as easily impressed by big names as you think. These folks will probably match somewhere (unless there is a real problem come interview time) but no one should get cocky about where and if they'll match. I know there are alot of surprises each year, and the bottom line is dont write off that interview,
 

fettucine

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Have to agree with steph on that one, personaly heard of at least 3 people not matching or even getting an interview simply based on their personality. Some were way too outgoing (through out their rotation), some were way too cocky, my advise, just be passionate and dedicated like somebody said, and if you're actions in the past hasn't shown it.. then make sure it comes out in the interview even if you have to say those words. Scores will ensure that you get the interview, but after that you're even with somebody with a 200 vs. 240.

Also if you do away rotations, don't leave before the residents, god forbid the attendings. Radonc clinic and treatment days might be short i.e that end at 5:00. Stay and read a book, play on the internet, dictate resident charts, learn to contour, prepare you're presentation.. whatever. Just refuse to leave! I mean its only 1 month rotation. Might seem like common sense, but way too many fall victim to a sunny day outside the basement.

And regarding interviews.. you only need 1.

like always my 2cents.
-f8