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Keepin' it real yo
10+ Year Member
Nov 28, 2005
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  1. Attending Physician
When you guys meet people for the first time and they find out you're a doctor, then they want to know "what kind of doctor," what do you say? It's sometimes hard for me to explain what I want to do with my life without assuming that the person I am talking to does not know very much about oncology..which sometimes could come off as offensive. For example, sometimes (for simplicity) I'll say "I'm going into cancer." Then they're like, "you mean oncology? Duh! Do you think I'm stupid or something?" So the next time I'll say "I'm going to be a radiation oncologist" and just get a blank stare. Does this happen to anyone else? Does anyone have an all-purpose, non-offensive yet interesting way to tell people what they do? This may sound like an obvious or silly question, but as someone just (hopefully) entering the field, I've found it to be a bit of a dilemma.


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7+ Year Member
Sep 13, 2005
Fort Worth, TX
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I say something along the line of

"I am in radiation oncology; I treat cancer with radiation." Then, I tailor my discussion based on the response ("my so-and-so is a radiologist, too" vs. "my so-and-so had cancer" vs. "isn't it depressing?" etc). By explaining what I do in simple terms, at least I don't get too much blank stare.


New Member
10+ Year Member
Oct 30, 2006
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  1. Non-Student
i hear you; having just gotten back from a bar, here's my ecperience:

them: so what kind of doctor are you?
me: me? i'm in radiation...
them: oh, like diagnostic radiology?
me: (somewhat surprised this hedge fund person knows some of the lingo) well, no...therapeutic actually...
them: (blank stare)
me: ....i zap bad stuff with radiation to kill it
them: ...oh, like cancer?
me: ...yeah...
them: oh....
me: ....
them: ...isn't that depressing?

usually, however, the vague 'i'm in radiation' bit works. you're right though; unless you can successfully evade mentioning cancer, discussion about what we do generally doesn't make for good, light conversation material...
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15+ Year Member
Apr 23, 2002
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  1. Medical Student
I say that Im going into oncology around lay people. If they dont understand that and give a blank stare, I say Im going into cancer medicine. Around medicine people I say radiation oncology. If they say something about radiology or give a blank stare I try to explain and get into an elaborate discussion about what radiation oncologists do, why Im going into it and why they think its depressing.
I guess this is the price we pay for going into such a low profile specialty. Its better to have no one know what it is than everyone knowing about it, making it more competitive than it already is.


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7+ Year Member
Sep 14, 2006
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  1. Resident [Any Field]
Oncology. That's what i say now after being confused with a radiologist and, believe it or not, a radiation therapist. In any case, many residency programs I visited emphasized that we're oncologists first and rad-oncs second anyway.
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