Toward a national consensus: Teaching radiobiology to radiation oncology residents

Elaine M. Zeman, Joseph R. Dynlacht, Barry S. Rosenstein, Mark W. Dewhirst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: The ASTRO Joint Working Group on Radiobiology Teaching, a committee composed of members having affiliations with several national radiation oncology and biology-related societies and organizations, commissioned a survey designed to address issues of manpower, curriculum standardization, and instructor feedback as they relate to resident training in radiation biology. METHODS AND MATERIALS: Radiation biology instructors at U.S. radiation oncology training programs were identified and asked to respond to a comprehensive electronic questionnaire dealing with instructor educational background, radiation biology course content, and sources of feedback with respect to curriculum planning and resident performance on standardized radiation biology examinations. RESULTS: Eighty-five radiation biology instructors were identified, representing 73 radiation oncology residency training programs. A total of 52 analyzable responses to the questionnaire were received, corresponding to a response rate of 61.2%. CONCLUSION: There is a decreasing supply of instructors qualified to teach classic, and to some extent, clinical, radiobiology to radiation oncology residents. Additionally, those instructors with classic training in radiobiology are less likely to be comfortable teaching cancer molecular biology or other topics in cancer biology. Thus, a gap exists in teaching the whole complement of cancer and radiobiology curricula, particularly in those programs in which the sole responsibility for teaching falls to one faculty member (50% of training programs are in this category). On average, the percentage of total teaching time devoted to classic radiobiology (50%), clinical radiobiology (30%), and molecular and cancer biology (20%) is appropriate, relative to the current makeup of the board examination. Nevertheless large variability exists between training programs with respect to the total number of contact hours per complete radiobiology course (ranging from approximately 10 to >50 h). A number of lecture topics, particularly in clinical radiobiology, are covered by fewer than 60% of training programs. A sizeable minority of radiation biology instructors are dissatisfied with the feedback they receive with respect to both course content and the performance of their residents on standardized radiobiology examinations administered by the American College of Radiology and/or the American Board of Radiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-872
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


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