Medical Student Elective Rotation in Radiation Oncology
Please note: Our medical student elective rotation is open to United States medical students only, and is offered in every month except January, July and December.
Track 1: University-based Hospital Elective
As offered through our affiliate medical school, The University of Texas Medical School – Houston, our Medical Student Elective in Radiation Oncology consists of 4 core weeks. Two 2-week periods will be chosen from the Breast, Gastrointestinal, Genitourinary, Gynecology, Head and Neck, Lymphoma or Lung sections. Rotations in other sections may be approved on a case-by-case basis. The major objectives of this rotation are to acquaint the student to the basic concepts of the practice of radiotherapy. While many students may elect to pursue further study in this specialty, it is expected that the primary emphasis of the rotation will focus on issues that will be useful to any physician who may provide services to cancer patients. The required conferences and clinical experiences will provide an introduction to:
- The basic principles of radiation physics, radiobiology, and radiation safety
- The clinical evaluation and staging of the patient with cancer
- The role of radiotherapy in the management of patients with cancer
- The importance of a multidisciplinary approach to cancer management
- The process by which treatment plans are generated from an understanding of tumor volume, normal tissue considerations and natural history of the disease
- The implementation and verification of radiotherapy treatment plans
Goals & Objectives
The goals of the medical student elective are to meet the objectives outlined in our mission statement and to assure that our students are competent in patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice. The goals for each of these competencies are outlined for each clinical service rotation. A number of goals and objectives cross each rotation.
Our program is committed to training the most competent clinical physicians. Patient care is taught through one-on-one direct teaching interaction with attendings and residents that occur during the care of oncology patients. In addition, specialized training in physical exams (for example: head and neck exams, gynecological exams) are provided by the attending staff during the clinical rotations. For each service, medical students are required to know the work-up and staging of each cancer type, how to develop and execute an appropriate radiotherapy plan to treat each cancer type, how to manage acute and late complications, and how to follow the patient after completion of treatment. These skills are taught individually in one-on-one direct clinical interaction with attendings and through written teaching material available in our educational curriculum. Assessment of competency in patient care is evaluated by the attending physicians with the input of the radiation oncology residents (360 degree review).
Medical students are required to gain an understanding of clinical radiation oncology, radiation physics, and radiation biology. Medical knowledge is taught through case studies of patients under the care of an attending/resident team, through our didactic lectureship series, through our internal visiting professor series, through our external visiting professor series, the core curriculum series, and through our Division of Radiation Oncology Grand Rounds series. Medical physics and radiation biology is taught through formal lectureship series provided on an annual basis. Medical students are excused from clinical responsibilities to attend these courses. The medical knowledge competency is assessed by a faculty evaluation of fund of knowledge during clinical case studies, including oral examinations of case studies during our daily planning clinics.
Practice-Based Learning & Improvement
Our resident training program is committed to train residents in the practice of evidence-based medicine and medical students will participate in this exercise. During their clinical rotation, medical students are required to make one oral presentation to the radiation oncology daily planning clinic. This will include a case presentation, paper presentation and brief review of the relevant literature. Attendance at the Hermann Hospital tumor board will also be required. This conference occurs on Tuesdays at 5pm. Dr. Ballo will be the contact for this conference.
Interpersonal & Communication Skills
Medical students are required to develop effective communication skills in patient care management, communication with other physicians, and scientific publication. Communication skills are taught through direct feedback on presentations. As previously mentioned, medical students are required to give one oral presentation during their rotation for which they receive a written evaluation and critique. Additional assessment tools include 360-degree evaluation and oral examinations testing their “tumor board” communications skills and medical knowledge.
Our elective is committed to furthering the professional and ethical practice skills of medical students. Professionalism and ethical conduct is assessed by the 360-degree evaluation. Successful radiation therapy, perhaps more than in any other patient care specialty, results from the collective efforts of many medical personnel. The radiation oncologist, radiation therapist, dosimetrist, medical physicist, oncology nurse, dietitian, social worker and clerical personnel, all make essential contributions to the outcome. It is expected that the student will recognize the roles that each one of these medical professionals play, and treat them as the indispensable individuals that they are.
Individual faculty teach systems-based practice issues during clinical rotations and didactic lectures concerning systems-based practice. Systems-based practice is assessed by a 360-degree evaluation.
- New patient consults
- Under treatment clinics
- Follow-up clinics
- Follow at least one new patient each week through simulation, administration of informed consent and patient teaching, treatment planning (with the dosimetrist), and treatment start.
- Attend Daily Planning Clinic Conference, Tuesday-Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
- Attend the pertinent multidisciplinary conferences throughout the rotation.
- Students are expected to give a brief presentation on a relevant radiation oncology topic including paper presentation.
- Medical students are expected to work between 40-50 hours a week. Working hours are 8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and students should be available during these hours. In general, residents take home call from Monday-Friday evenings and medical students are not responsible for on call duties.
A student’s performance will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
- Gathering data by history and physical examination
- Skills in oral and written presentations
- Assessing data and arriving at a diagnosis – problem solving
- Evidence of preparation and outside reading
- Work habits and personal qualities
- Interpersonal relationships with other members of the health care team
- Knowledge and fund of information
Medical students are encouraged to develop self-study techniques and are provided with examples of study aids (that have been developed by faculty members and other residents) to assist them in the development of these techniques. Medical students actively participate in scholarly programs including:
- Planning clinic case presentation
- Planning clinic educational presentations
- Clinical didactic lecture series
- Radiation physics lectures
- Radiation biology lectures
- Radiation Oncology Grand Rounds
Track 2: Community-based Elective
The MD Anderson Radiation Oncology Elective in Katy is designed for students who wish to experience a broad overview of clinical radiation oncology practiced in the community setting. The entire elective will take place at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Katy, located 45 minutes by car from the Texas Medical Center. In addition to Radiation Oncology, the Katy Regional Care Center provides Medical Oncology, Head & Neck Surgery, Urologic Oncology, Gynecologic Oncology and Breast Surgery services. The student will spend the elective working with MD Anderson Faculty in radiation oncology seeing patients, performing simulation and treatment planning, and attending multidisciplinary conferences and tumor boards. Exposure to many different types of cancer will be common during the elective.
• The basic principles of radiation physics, radiobiology, and radiation safety
• The clinical evaluation and staging of the patient with cancer
• The role of radiotherapy in the management of patients with cancer
• The importance of a multidisciplinary approach to cancer management
• The process by which treatment plans are generated from an understanding of tumor volume, normal
tissue considerations and natural history of the disease
• The implementation and verification of radiotherapy treatment plans
Goals and Objectives:
The goal of the medical student elective is to provide a broad overview of clinical radiation oncology as it is practiced in the community. The emphasis of the elective will be on the clinical practice radiation oncology in regard to physical examination of the cancer patient, cross sectional anatomy as it pertains to radiation treatment planning, and general physician patient interaction. The student will spend the entire rotation working with Radiation Oncology Faculty, as residents do not rotate through in the Regional Care Centers. Students will be evaluated by faculty based on their general performance of clinical medicine during the rotation. There will be many opportunities to interact with MD Anderson Faculty from other oncologic disciplines as well, as all Regional Care Center clinics are run in a multidisciplinary fashion in close proximity.
1) Attend patient consults, follow-ups, simulations, and weekly management visits.
2) Attend MD Anderson Interdisciplinary Rounds at 7:30am on Fridays
3) Attend tumor boards at community hospitals
4) Perform selected assigned tasks independently (i.e. general contouring of structures during virtual simulation).
5) Spend time working with Radiation Therapists and Dosimetrists in their respective disciplines.
6) Follow at least one new patient from consultation, simulation, treatment planning, and treatment start per week.
A student’s performance will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
• Gathering data by history and physical examination
• Skills in oral and written presentations
• Assessing data and arriving at a diagnosis – problem solving
• Evidence of preparation and outside reading
• Work habits and personal qualities
• Interpersonal relationships with other members of the health care team
• Knowledge and fund of information
We do not offer electives in January, July and December. To receive priority consideration of your elective request, a completed application must be received no later than April 30, with approval/denial decisions and applicant notifications made by mid-May. Applications received after April 30 are considered on an ad hoc basis.
We specifically seek students currently enrolled in a U. S. medical school who are interested in Radiation Oncology, as reflected in our mission statement. Our electives are not open to international medical students. You should be in the second half of your third year or in your fourth year of medical school. Your acceptance into this elective is contingent on a review of your academic record, curriculum vitae and personal statement. In this phase, a student issued transcript will suffice. Once accepted for an elective, the student affairs office of the medical school will request an official transcript.
- Download and print the application form
- Attach completed application form, CV and student transcript (unofficial) to an e-mail
- Send to Letericia Smith, Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
A minimum of 60 days is required to process an elective.
Director of Medical Student Electives
Prajnan Das, M.D., Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Thomas Buchholz, M.D., Professor
Residency Program Director
Christopher Crane, M.D., Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Fax number: 713-563-8645