Researchers to Create a Virtual Experience in Radiation Oncology for Medical Students


The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Research and Education Foundation recently announced that Dr. Charles Hayter, Department of Radiation Oncology, Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre and Dr. Joyce Nyhof-Young, Educator, Department of Radiation Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, have been awarded $75,000 US through a Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) World Wide

Web-Based Educational Program Grant entitled Development of a Virtual Elective in Radiation Oncology.

Radiation oncologists are physicians who specialize in the care of cancer patients and the application of radiotherapy. The goal of the website is to increase awareness of radiation oncology as a profession among medical students and to provide students with basic knowledge in preparation for a “hands-on” experience in radiation oncology. The site will be ready by July 1st, 2005.

With more than 17 modules, this creative and interactive site answers frequently asked questions such as, “Isn’t radiation oncology depressing?” and dispels the myth that the profession is all about working the machines rather than providing one-on-one patient care.

“Despite the increasing incidence of cancer and the need for radiation professionals, many medical students are unaware of this field,” said Hayter. “Most undergraduate medical programs don’t spend a lot of time exploring the various facets of radiation oncology. By providing more information about the depth and breadth of radiation oncology as a profession, the hope is that more students will enroll in radiation oncology programs and ease the continuing shortage.”

Other modules in the site include an outlook calendar showing a typical day in the life of a radiation therapist as well as information on breaking news in radiation treatment research and clinical trials. The idea is to show the diversity and innovative aspects of the dynamic profession as well as discussing the role of the radiation oncologist as a key member of a patient’s oncology health-care team.

“Our goal is to create an interactive and lively site which makes finding information on radiation oncology fun and easy,” added Hayter.

The site will also offer information about how to talk to patients with cancer and breaking bad news, an overview of common cancers and treatments, the history of radiation oncology, career opportunities as well as a virtual learning center that will help medical students learn some key concepts and knowledge that will complement a clinical “hands-on” rotation in radiation oncology at medical school.

The RSNA World Wide Web-based Educational Program Grant is designed to provide an opportunity for scientists and physicians in the radiologic sciences to develop educational materials specifically for widespread distribution through the World Wide Web by providing up to $75,000 for a one-year project. This is the maximum given by the RSNA.

Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre is transforming health care through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff members who provide compassionate and innovative patient focused care. An internationally recognized leader in women’s health, academic research and education and an affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes

Sunnybrook & Women’s as one of Canada’s premier health sciences centres. Sunnybrook & Women’s is home to Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, a comprehensive cancer centre, which offers a full range of outpatient and inpatient treatment and supportive care programs. The Centre is a partnership between Sunnybrook & Women’s and Cancer Care Ontario, fully affiliated with University of Toronto and is a leader in cancer research, education and patient care. Sunnybrook & Women’s specializes in caring for newborns, adults and the elderly, treating and preventing cancer, heart problems, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries.