Radiation Oncology Fellowship Program
West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Department of Radiation Oncology, and the WVU Cancer Institute offer a four-year training program leading to eligibility for board certification in Radiation Oncology.
WVU offers a 4-year, ACGME-accredited residency program in Radiation Oncology. As part of the West Virginia Cancer Institute, the department of Radiation Oncology is tightly coordinated with surgical and medical oncology services, and participates in both national and regional trials in cancer treatment, screening, and prevention. The training program has been designed from its’ inception to foster the development of resident skills as both comprehensive oncologists and radiotherapy physicians. Innovative educational features of the program include experiences where residents are embedded with surgical, radiological, and physics/therapy teams to better understand how these professionals make decisions and participate in multidisciplinary care. The program is designed around progressive responsibility, with more junior residents focusing on developing a knowledge base in natural history of cancer, multimodality management, and fundamentals of cancer biology and radiotherapy physics. More senior residents focus on decision making in cancer treatment, development and evaluation of advanced radiotherapy plans, and the role of the radiation oncologist as a leader in both inter- and intradepartmental teams. Formal didactic training includes lectures, seminars, journal clubs, and quality control conferences. Many of these experiences employ modern instructional techniques such as “flipped classroom” and self-directed learning experiences to prepare residents for lifelong learning and expansion of their knowledge and skills after residency. The program also includes structured interactions with WVU fellows in medical and surgical oncology, protected time for research, and a focused pediatric radiation oncology experience at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Our department is also active in promoting and advancing the practice of radiation oncology in West Virginia. By providing trainees with skills and independence in clinical treatment, research, and quality assurance measures, we are extending our commitment to develop leadership in our field, both regionally and nationally.
Over the 4 year course of the residency program, residents will develop clinical knowledge of the diagnosis, staging, and management of patients commonly encounter in radiation oncology practice. Patients are primarily seen in the outpatient clinic of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, with inpatient consults for urgent needs as necessary. The program is based on development of graduated responsibility, so that PGY2 and 3 residents focus on developing knowledge of overall management of cancer patients and basic radiation oncology treatment skills, while more senior residents focus on developing a detailed understanding of advanced radiotherapy techniques and planning, as well as understanding the role of radiotherapy plays in the context of the patient's overall treatment. Residents work one-on-one with an assigned clinical attending for four-month rotations focusing on specific treatment sites such as lung or CNS, as typically treated by their attending physician. Residents attend weekly chart rounds, M&M and quality improvement conferences, Journal club, and selected oncology lectures. Residents also play an active role in multidisciplinary tumor boards based on their attending physicians specialization, presenting clinical patients as well as radiology and pathology information after review with attending physicians in the appropriate departments. As part of their training, residents have focused learning experiences in radiology, pathology, and nuclear medicine, as well as opportunities for surgical observation and interacting with our surgeons in decision-making.
A one year clinical physics course is taught by our physics division chief, Alfredo Siochi, Ph. D. The one semester radiobiology course his co-directed by Dr. Todd Tenenholz, M.D., Ph.D, and Dr. Elena Pugacheva, Ph.D. Residents are given dedicated time away from clinical responsibilities for these courses. The program provides all necessary experience in stereotactic radiotherapy, brachytherapy ( GYN- HDR, Prostate LDR and HDR), as well as as unsealed source administration (I-125, Y-90 sir-spheres) through our nuclear medicine and interventional radiology departments. Residents also participate in one month pediatric experience at St. Jude's research hospital in Memphis, under the guidance of Dr. Tom Merchant.
The major sites for clinical activities are at WVUMedicine - Ruby Memorial Hospital, the largest facility in the WVU Hospitals family, and the WVU Cancer Institute.
WVU Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology operates two state-of-the-art Varian linear accelerators (1 Trilogy, 1 Truebeam), capable of delivering conventional, IMRT, RapidArc, and stereotactic body radiotherapy treatments. The department has a dedicated wide-bore 16 slice CT scanner for patient simulation. Respiratory gating is available using RPM software. Intracranial stereotactic treatment is delivered using an Elekta Perfexion Gamma Knife unit, and HDR brachytherapy is delivered using a VariSource remote afterloader. WVU also has a Zeiss Intrabeam kilovoltage system used to deliver intra-operative radiotherapy. The software environment is fully integrated using the Varian ARIA system with Eclipse treatment planning and Velocity deformable image registration, and is available remotely via Citrix. WVU also operates a satellite facility about 20 miles from the main campus, which is currently staffed by faculty and is fully integrated into the WVU clinical environment. MRI, CT/PET, and SPECT imaging are all available on the main campus and are routinely integrated into treatment planning.
The program offers a dedicated 6-month block of protected time for resident research during the 3rd (PGY-4) year. Residents have multiple opportunities to develop ideas for clinical research prior to this time block, including interaction with cancer center faculty, “Science Friday” gatherings where faculty present current projects in an informal environment, and statistical “Boot Camp” sessions run by the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI), which help to familiarize trainees with appropriate statistical models. The WVCTSI also provides guidance in research design and statistical analysis of clinical research projects. For residents with a basic science background, the WVU Cancer Institute houses around 100 faculty scientists (Cancer Center Members) who are involved in cancer biology research. Those interested in working on interdisciplinary projects can submit a proposal to work with any qualified faculty member in the WVU system, including faculty in engineering, basic sciences, and the school of medicine. Residents are encouraged to submit abstracts to national and regional meetings, and there is dedicated funding and time (in addition to leave/vacation) to present these results. Residents are expected to submit at least one manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal during their training.