There are several key steps that aspiring oncology fellows must take after earning a bachelor's degree, including completing medical school and an internal medicine residency. See details about each requirement, and learn what oncology fellows can expect once admitted.
An oncology fellowship is the last step in a training sequence to become a practicing oncologist, or a physician who diagnoses and treats cancer. Training can take up to nine years to complete, and the fellowship itself typically lasts three years. Getting a fellowship spot requires completing the appropriate education and submitting called for documentation. Since competition is fierce for fellowships, top scores and research are important qualifications.
Admissions decisions for an oncology fellowship are based on applicants' success in their medical school and residency programs, and the selection process is extremely competitive. Most programs accept fewer than a dozen fellows each year, despite receiving hundreds of applications. Required steps and suggestions for getting into one of these fellowship programs are outlined here.
Graduate from Medical School
After earning their bachelor's degrees, prospective physicians enroll in accredited Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) programs. Upon completing one of these three-year curricula, graduates can sit for parts one and two of the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) and earn state licensure as physicians. These are often among the admissions requirements for continuing education in a residency program.
Success in medical school programs can also help ensure acceptance into an oncology fellowship later on, since some schools require physicians to submit their medical school transcripts or a Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) with their application materials.
Complete an Internal Medicine Residency
Internal medicine residencies generally last three years. During this time, residents complete coursework and clinical rotations where they learn to care for patients who are receiving treatment in hospitals, clinics and outpatient care facilities. Within these programs, it is beneficial to participate in research symposia and conferences or complete special research projects under the mentorship of a faculty member. The ability to conduct research is often among the considerations for admission to an oncology fellowship program.
Submit Fellowship Application Materials
In addition to MSPEs and USMLE scores, required application materials for an oncology fellowship can include:
- Medical school transcripts
- Two to five letters of recommendation, including some from residency program directors or medical school deans
- A curriculum vitae
- A personal statement
Together, these documents introduce the applicant to the program's selection committee by outlining their educational qualifications, accomplishments, personal qualities and professional goals. Consequently, these pieces should be clear, concise and written in such a way as to capture the reader's attention, especially where the personal statement is concerned. After the initial application is submitted, promising candidates are typically invited for an interview before final selections are made.
Oncology Fellowship Information
Oncology fellowships typically last for two to three years. Many provide combined training in both hematology and oncology. Within these programs, fellows gain experience with the diagnosis and treatment of neoplastic and hematologic disorders and diseases. They also conduct clinical or laboratory research, depending on their area of interest. Other aspects of the program can include:
- Grand rounds
- Research seminars
- Tumor boards
- Formal coursework
Upon completion, graduates are eligible for certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine, and they may go on to work as oncologists or academic researchers.
Aspiring oncologists need to complete an oncology fellowship before they can practice, but in order to get one, they must earn a medical degree, complete a residency program and demonstrate their knowledge and skills on an application.