The UCI radiation oncology training program is unique in its ability to cultivate and foster resident education. As a relatively small program, it has the advantage of allowing a great amount of one-on-one instruction from faculty physicians, physicists, researchers, and staff. Residents have access to resources across the bandwidth of the entire world-class University and are encouraged to seek out opportunities that fuel their passions. Our faculty work closely to build the residency around our trainees, rather than vice-versa.
The residency prides itself on its collegiality and qualities such as teamwork, kindness, maturity, and respect for others are valued and promoted. UCI Radiation Oncology aims to develop future leaders, and our trainees are consistently challenged to think independently and critically so they have the confidence and wherewithal to make sound decisions. The high level of mentorship that our residents receive combined with the intimate environment in which learning occurs are what ultimately make UCI special. Other qualities that set UCI apart include:
- UCI is the only NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange County. The strengths of the radiation oncology, surgical, and medical oncology services create a robust multi-disciplinary environment for training. Tumor boards are high-volume, collegial, and evidence based. Radiation oncology is well-regarded across the Cancer Center; in fact, many of our faculty help lead the multi-disciplinary discussions and have the loudest “voices” at these roundtables.
- As one of the oldest radiation oncology residency programs in the country and one of the first on the West Coast, UCI has a proud and longstanding history of training residents. These physicians are now thriving in practice, including at various academic medical centers, throughout the country. Some, in fact, have now called it a career and are retired!
- One of the most diverse patient populations anywhere. UCI is situated in the heart of Orange County (the sixth largest county in the United States) and serves a patient population representative of multiple ethnicities including communities from Latino, African American, Asian, and Eastern European backgrounds, among others. The medical center sees patients from rural communities to the East as well as more affluent patients from the coastal regions. Coupled with this demographic mix is an interesting variety of different pathologies and disease presentations. Residents see everything from “zebras” to “bread-and-butter” type cases.
- Protected time is never a problem for our residents, as the program aims to carefully craft a balance between service and education. Didactic time is taken seriously, and staff are specifically instructed not to disturb residents during teaching activities. All faculty physicians are used to working solo if needed so that residents can focus on education.
- Scut labor and activities lacking in educational value are intentionally eliminated from the residency. Ancillary support staff at UCI are top-notch and responsive, thus helping to minimize the amount of time our residents spend completing paperwork, finding records, and/or scheduling patients.
- Faculty involvement is unparalleled. Our faculty are excited and enthusiastic about teaching. We specifically look for these qualities in each hire that is made. As a result, participation from our faculty in didactic conferences is expected and universally high. On average, each faculty gives 10-20 lectures a year to our residents.
- Accessibility to faculty. Each one of our faculty members not only have an “open door” policy but an “open text” policy as well. They take immense pride in their approachability and friendliness. Whether it’s a personal matter or a professional one, they are always available to lend a helping hand. The faculty are great physicians but even better people.
- Leadership training is taken seriously. Our interactive and popular Chair’s seminar covers topics such healthy policy, billing, practice building, ethics, professionalism, conflict resolution, and negotiations, among many others. Role playing simulations, team building exercises, and an occasional trip to the Escape Room round out this experience.
- The theranostics experience for residents is valuable. Since the Department provides services for the administration of radioactive nuclides for the medical center, UCI residents develop an expertise in these treatments.
- Robust brachytherapy experience. Due to UCI’s status as the de facto County hospital for Orange County, UCI residents gain experience treating a high volume of gynecologic cancers and become well-trained in interstitial brachytherapy techniques. Whether it’s intact cervical cancer or recurrent vaginal cancer, brachytherapy is consistently high volume at UCI.
- Proton therapy experience. Our residents rotate through the California Proton Center affiliated with Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego to gain experience with proton therapy and in particular pediatric malignancy management. The Department covers the cost of housing for this 1-month away rotation.
- Job placement. Our faculty are from some of the best institutions in the country. Come time for job searching and interview, they are not hesitant to go to bat for our trainees and are not shy about promoting them.
- Having a voice. The Department leadership values feedback and residents are encouraged to provide it. As a result, we rely on our trainees to play an active role in constantly trying to improve the residency experience.
- We build the residency around our residents. Rather than a “one size fits all” approach to training, we really listen to what our trainees want and try to customize an educational program to suit their individual needs. We realize that no 2 residents are alike and try to place residents in situations to use their strengths while shoring up their weaknesses. Career development is prioritized above all else.
- Our faculty recognize that it is a true privilege to teach and educate the next generation of radiation oncologists. Thus, they strive to create an environment that is positive and constructive for our trainees. While we take education seriously, we also try to have fun at the same time.