Feature article

Oncologic Imaging Education and Fellowships: Who are the leaders and what do they offer young physicians?

Oncologic imaging is an increasingly important part of modern cancer care. Rapidly evolving imaging technology now plays a critical role beyond just diagnosis and staging. It can help doctors choose the treatment options that best fit a patient's unique set of circumstances. It can also help identify necessary changes once treatment has started.

To help young oncologists develop strong expertise in working with and evaluating the results of critical imaging tools, many of the top medical centers across the country have created oncologic imaging fellowships and educational programs.

How do oncologic imaging fellowships help young doctors?

Doctors who are new to the field of oncology have many diagnostic imaging tools at their disposal. Each tool, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET)-CT scans, and ultrasound, can provide life-saving insights. Oncologic imaging stretches across all forms of cancer, and has a critical role to play in diagnosing, staging, and treating patients.

But these imaging technologies, like oncology as a practice, are constantly evolving. To acquire the skills and experience needed to best serve patients, young doctors are flocking to programs like the Cancer Imaging Program (CIP) Fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which provides intensive immersion in the latest imaging tools and how to best use those tools.1

CIP adds further instructional enrichment for its fellows through a close affiliation with Brigham and Women's Hospital, which offers a Fellowship in Women's Imaging. This is one of several imaging fellowships offered at both institutions. The Fellowship in Women's Imaging typically lasts at least six months, and focuses on all aspects of breast imaging and interventional procedures, as well as obstetrical and general ultrasound.2

This kind of immersive, hands-on training is commonplace in oncologic imaging fellowships, empowering young doctors to gain mastery over the art and science of technologies that can help save lives.

What does a fellowship in oncologic imaging entail?

Many top cancer treatment centers, universities, and hospitals offer this kind of fellowship. Most fellowships last either six or 12 months, but some last as long as 24 months. All of them provide intensive training on state-of-the-art equipment under the direction of experienced radiologists and oncologists. It is standard practice that fellows work closely with patients at the facility. Many programs provide a housing subsidy, and there is often a formal expectation that fellows will provide on-call services, or even emergency-room or other departmental support, for fellows studying at a hospital.

Large institutions, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), offer many different oncologic imaging fellowships, allowing young doctors to find specialized training that fits their experience and career aspirations. MSKCC offers a number of imaging fellowships, including:

  • Breast Imaging Fellowship;
  • Comprehensive MRI Oncologic Imaging Fellowship*;
  • Interventional Oncology Fellowship;
  • Interventional Radiology Fellowship (Independent Interventional Radiology Residency);
  • Molecular Imaging Therapy Fellowship;
  • Neuro-Oncology Imaging Fellowship.

Fellowships that provide this kind of specificity allow young doctors to find important connection points between patient, doctor, and imaging technology, all with the goal of providing the best possible care based on a patient's unique circumstances.3

*MSKCC's Comprehensive MRI Oncologic Imaging Fellowship is an example of the kind of intensive, focused training these programs can provide. This MRI imaging program offers 52 weeks of extensive training in body MRI (26 weeks), body CT (12 weeks), ultrasound (4 weeks), PET/CT (4 weeks), and elective study or research (6 weeks). Fellows gain experience in imaging the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and extremities in adult and pediatric patients. Fellows have access to state-of-the-art imaging technology, including:

  • CT scanners (16- and 64-slice and dual-energy);
  • 1.5-T and 3-T MRI scanners;
  • an MRI hyperpolarizer;
  • PET/CT scanners;
  • SPECT-CT scanners;
  • a PET/MRI scanner;
  • ultrasound units.4

What fellowships are available to young doctors?

Fellowships in oncologic imaging are available throughout the U.S., often at leading teaching hospitals associated with universities, cancer treatment centers, and public hospitals. Doctors who seek immersive training in oncologic imagery have a wide range of options from coast-to-coast, allowing for targeted study and experience. The University of California--Davis, offers a 12-month Interventional Oncology Fellowship Program; the Cleveland Clinic, offers 10 different fellowship programs in imaging5; the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas offers the Body Imaging Fellowship6; and the Department of Radiology at Columbia University offers the Breast Imaging Fellowship.7

How do doctors (and patients) benefit from these programs?

The wide range of fellowships, each offering a unique training experience for young doctors who want to take real-world experience with imaging technology and apply it to the care and treatment of their patients. Doctors who receive advanced training are empowered to share that expertise. According to the University of California—San Francisco, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, "The modern use of imaging has been one of the great advances made in the practice of medicine, allowing doctors to diagnose and manage their patients’ diseases safely and rapidly. Many of today’s medical improvements require tests using radiation to confirm diagnoses, plan management, and monitor the response to treatment."8

Fellowships and related educational programs in oncologic imaging are vital components of modern cancer care. Imaging provides one of the most important tools a doctor has in diagnosing, staging, and treating cancer—information. Fellowships offer a unique opportunity for young doctors to gain experience in:

  • Determining if or when surgery is necessary;
  • Limiting exploratory surgeries;
  • Improving diagnosis, staging, and treatment;
  • Reducing the number and length of hospitalizations.

As oncologic imaging technology evolves, so, too, must the doctors responsible for interpreting the results of such powerful diagnostic tools. The connection between advanced training, in the form of fellowships and related educational opportunities, and doctors and their patients is a critical step forward in cancer care. Better trained doctors have the opportunity to provide the best possible response to imaging results, from diagnosis to staging to treatment selection.

References

  1. "Cancer Imaging Imaging Fellowships." www.dana-farber.org/for-physicians/education-and-training/fellowships-and-training-programs/cancer-imaging-program-fellowships. Accessed November 15, 2018.
  2. "Fellowship in Women's Imaging." www.brighamandwomens.org/radiology/education-and-training/womens-imaging-fellowship. Accessed November 16, 2018.
  3. "Fellowships." www.mskcc.org/departments/radiology/fellowships. Accessed November 16, 2018.
  4. "Comprehensive MRI Oncologic Imaging Fellowship." www.mskcc.org/hcp-education-training/fellowships/oncologic-imaging-fellowship. Accessed November 18, 2018.
  5. "Fellowship Programs." my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/imaging/medical-professionals/fellowships. Accessed November 18, 2018.
  6. "Body Imaging Fellowship." www.mdanderson.org/education-training/clinical-research-training/graduate-medical-education/residencies-fellowships/body-imaging.html. Accessed November 18, 2018.
  7. "Breast Imaging Fellowship." www.columbiaradiology.org/education/fellowships/breast-imaging-fellowship. Accessed November 18, 2018.
  8. Benefits of Imaging Using Radiation. radiology.ucsf.edu/patient-care/patient-safety/radiation-safety/benefits. Accessed November 19, 2018.