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Would a background in medical physics make me a less desireable radonc?

Discussion in 'Radiation Oncology' started by EricVT, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. EricVT

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    Hello everyone, just registered and after looking over the forums a bit thought I would ask a question that may not have a clear answer:

    How might having a background in medical physics change how I am perceived as a medical school applicant and after that as I am seeking a radonc residency?

    I have an M.S. in Medical Physics and have worked in radiation oncology for a while and enjoy it very much. While I love physics, an evolution of my interest in cancer medicine has led me to ponder whether returning to school for my M.D. (potentially M.D./Ph.D.) would be a good decision for me.

    Putting aside that very personal decision and just focusing on the process of getting into medical school and then a radonc residency, how do you think my situation might benefit or hurt me?

    As far as grades are concerned I am very strong, a 4.0 both as an undergrad and as a graduate. Obviously I am intimately familiar with the workings of radiation oncology departments and with cancer care itself, though of course I don't claim an M.D.'s expertise in patient management. I've not taken the MCAT but lets make a bold assumption and say I do well on it (I've always been an excellent standardized test taker, even in my weaker subjects).

    Would application reviewers take my background in radiation oncology seriously or would they see my career change as being wishy-washy? Is the field of radiation oncology so difficult to enter that going to medical school would be betting against my better interests if it were the only specialty I was interested in pursuing? It isn't as if I am struggling now, I have a high six-figures job and no debt. While I would hate to sacrifice what I have for a failed attempt at becoming a radonc...nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.

    Really just curious about the fundamental question: do you think a background in medical physics and radiation oncology would be helpful or hurtful to me if I were to pursue medical school with the intent of becoming a radiation oncologist?

    Cheers.
     
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  3. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
    Physician PhD Faculty Moderator Emeritus Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    Go to medical school to become a physician not a radiation oncologist. The number of Rad Oncs as a percentage of all practicing physicians in the US is < 1%. Also, as you know, the field is competitive and getting in is certainly not a sure thing. You don't want to be in a situation where you bust your hump for four years and don't match into Rad Onc for one reason.

    As to your background in Medical Physics, I think it will help you if you choose to apply for med school. You are already in a job where you regularly work with physicians to help deliver complex medical care so the appeal to apply to medical school should be self-evident. However, it depends how you spin it. If you say, I want to be a "Radiation Oncologist or bust" this may be seen as unrealistic (also, some med schools tend to frown on applicants who are dead set on specialization).
     
  4. r90t

    r90t Senior Member
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    A friend of mine that I mentored just finished his residency in radiation oncology. He is a DO. He has a MS in medical physics. It isn't impossible.

    I know of other MPs who have become rad oncs. I think it is favorable when applying, because you will crush your fellow MS4s when rotating as a med student.
     
  5. Pewl

    Pewl The Dude Abides
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    Wow, when I read the OP's post I thought I was reading a biography about myself (sans 6 figure salary of course) :D

    I trained in medical physics and also did an MS prior to med school. The way I see it if you use the right angle it can only help you. What you posted is more or less what I talked about at interviews. Just find a way to convey how your work in this field garnered your interest in medicine. It's ok to talk about radiation oncology since you've obviously had a lot of exposure to it. Just be sure to mention how you're interested in other fields as well. (However, I pretty much knew I was going into radiation oncology before even starting med school. I went balls out. I knew if I didn't match I would keep trying or switch careers. =P).

    That being said, I hadn't really practiced medical physics so I wasn't established at all in my career yet. It sounds like you're pretty comfortable with where you're at. Going to med school and then residency is like starting back at square one. It is a pain in the ass and a complete lifestyle change. I don't know if you have family or other issues in life, but make sure first you're ready to take that step before even attempting to switch fields. Personally I think it's very rewarding. But I'm a happy bachelor with zero strings attached. I went where the wind (and DVH's) took me! :thumbup:
     
  6. physics junkie

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    I couldn't tell from your post whether you are talking about if your experience would hurt your chances at being accepted to medical school or being accepted to a residency program...so I'm going to offer my 0.02 on the former.

    My experience has been that that most schools are not fond of students expressing interest in a specialty before starting medical school. ADCOMs primarily want you to be concerned with caring for your patients and being a "service oriented" physician. My advice would be to spin your experience on your med school application to highlight how working in the medical field made you aware/interested of the needs of patients suffering from cancer. Spending your interview talking about why you want to be a radiation oncologist is a bad idea.

    Disclaimer: I have experience applying to MD programs--not MD/PhD programs.
     
    #5 physics junkie, Jul 27, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011

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