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Radiation Oncology

"Radiation oncology is the specialty of medicine that uses radiant energy for treating usually malignant disease and occasionally benign disease. Radiation oncologists are a fundamental component of the interdisciplinary practice of cancer treatment and may act as both consultants to referring physicians and primary oncologist to patients. Using a broad oncologic fund of knowledge, the radiation oncologist approaches the treatment of cancer with meticulous application of his/her technical expertise. If their knowledge base and relationship to the patient is like that of the medical oncologist (doctors who prescribe chemotherapy), the approach is more akin to the surgeon."

— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p. 435.

M1 and M2 Students

 What advice would you offer first- and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?

Get to know faculty in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Shadow a physician in the department for a week to see if this is a field you want to further explore. Participate in research projects if possible (clinical and basic science).

 How important is a research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?

Very important, and it always helps to do a research project related specifically to radiation oncology.

M3 and M4 Students

 What M4 electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?

Hematology-oncology, surgical oncology, pathology, radiology and palliative care.

 Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?

Yes. At least one away rotation in radiation oncology.

 If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many "aways" do you recommend?

At least one. Two is good.

 If away rotations are necessary, when should they be completed?

Prior to the start of interview season so students can get letters of recommendation.

 Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?

Interviews are held November to February.

 Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?

No, but at least two of four letters of recommendation from radiation oncology faculty (if possible, from different institutions) would be a good idea.

 If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?

A letter of recommendation from a basic science faculty member where the student has conducted bench research and letters from faculty members in other cancer sub-specialties are helpful.

 Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?


 Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?


 Radiation Oncology Specialty Session - Winter / Residency Application Information

During the winter of the M3 year, students should attend specialty sessions sponsored by the Department of Radiation Oncology to learn more about the specialty and to meet attendings and residents in the field.

Request an Radiation Oncology Adviser

Contact our Radiation Oncology Advising Coordinator:

Tarita O Thomas

Tarita Thomas, MD
Radiation Oncology Career Advising Coordinator
View profile

For More Information

Radiation Oncology
Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine
251 E. Huron, Suite LC 178
Chicago, IL 60611-2923
Phone: 312-926-7903
Fax: 312-926-6374