Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering what specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Today's post is on why Dr. Dalwadi chose the field of radiation oncology and why radiation oncology is a great field for female physicians.
Radiation oncology is one of the best kept secrets in medicine. Radiation oncologists work in a truly multidisciplinary setting and use the principles of radiation biology, physics, and medicine to cure cancer, palliate symptoms, and even manage some benign disorders. As it is such a niche specialty, many students (and even residents!) simply have never interacted with a radiation oncologist.
Here are the top four reasons I pursued radiation oncology:
Patient population: We treat cancer patients alongside our medical and surgical oncology colleagues. These are extremely complex cases which require deliberation and inter-disciplinary collaboration. With oncology patients, there is a heavy focus on patient-centric care; oncologists engage in meaningful conversations everyday about values, personal stressors, and goals of care. Through these interactions, we constantly find hope and inspiration.
Intellectual Challenge: Radiation oncology requires the translation of radiation biology and physics into clinical care; trainees must pass rigorous qualifying exams in these subjects before taking clinical boards. I find this emphasis on quantitative concepts separate from medicine to be a unique and interesting challenge. Each treatment is customized to the patient with rigorous planning and quality control alongside dosimetrists and physicists – for that reason, no two plans are ever the same!
Variety: Radiation oncologists split time between seeing patients in clinic, brachytherapy procedures, and treatment planning. We treat all primary cancer sites and see patients from all stage of disease. Furthermore, we not uncommonly treat benign disease, such as keloids, Grave’s opthalmopathy, and arteriovenous malformation.
Innovation: Radiation oncology is a research-heavy field focused on constant improvement through meaningful innovation. Basic science and translational efforts seek to optimize radiobiology and identify new roles for radiotherapy in cancer patients. Clinical trials are establishing the benefit of radiotherapy in the immunotherapy era and in oligometastatic patients. The future of radiation oncology is exciting, especially as medicine shifts to a focus on value-based care.
Despite making up half of medical schools, females represent only 30% of radiation oncology trainees and even less of academic faculty. Now more than ever it is the right time for women to apply! Choosing the right specialty is key to preventing burnout and radiation oncology allows me to have a fulfilling career of managing cancer patients and engaging in research, while maintaining a healthy balance with my personal life.