|Radiation Oncology lands No.1 title
by Dawn Brazell
Chaperones aren’t the only ones who take the buddy system seriously.
Joseph M. Jenrette, M.D., does too.
The professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology said
it’s one of the keys to his department landing the No. 1 title in
radiation oncology out of 78 programs in the nation on a 10-year
rolling average. That means for 10 years the department has hit a
perfect pass rate on the American Board of Radiology’s certifying exams
for radiation oncology.
“We’re competing against good schools—Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford
and Duke—all the major medical schools in the country. We’re really
proud that right here in South Carolina, we’re No. 1.”
Jenrette said they emphasize the basics, but they also encourage a
strong esprit de corps that helps them to avoid the backstabbing that
other institutions or departments may encounter in a competitive,
“We work as teams so there is always a resident attached to an
attending. Whatever we do, we do it together all through the
day—literally from the time we get there in the morning until we leave
in the afternoon. There’s a sense of responsibility that if we all look
good, the whole program looks good. There is no lonely, idle time in
our resident program.”
Resident Jason Zauls, M.D., agreed.
He said he feels the team approach enhances learning and that his
attending is sitting right next to him all day long. “For better or for
worse,” he said, smiling. All the residents work well together in a
self-mentoring process as well.
With six residents, the department is just the right size for the
one-on-one training that gives residents a wide base of exposure to
cases, said Jenrette. This training style also means there can be a
seamless delivery of care to patients, who often are followed long-term
for their care.
“We know about their families. We know about their children,” said
Jenrette. “It makes the patients feel like they are part of a program
that likes to take care of them. They’ll often call us first when they
have problems because they know us so well.”
The buddy system also allows residents to learn through more
experienced doctors how to handle the serious discussions that
radiation oncologists have to have with patients. They can learn the
vernacular and how to couch bad news in a way where the patient will
not be devastated.
“We always try to end up with some ray of hope or sunshine when we talk
to patients. If you just go and sit remotely in a library reading
textbooks about cancer and the technology and never take care of
patients and see how to properly interact with a patient, then one
would just come off as cold statistics.”
Jenrette said the other contributing factor to the department’s success
is using the team approach to leverage time and assets to research
efforts. In the past two years, the residents have worked with faculty
members and medical students to generate about 45 papers that have been
published or presented at national meetings, said Jenrette.
Jenrette noted that David Marshall, M.D., the residency director
faculty mentor, has done a good job of letting residents know how
crucial research is to their future careers and to the field of
radiation oncology, which is undergoing rapid change. Several residents
also have won top oncology essay awards, including Zauls and John
“For a small department to be able to compete against people from other
programs around the country and to win is really a remarkable event.
That translates into why we’re doing so well on our boards. We’ve
engendered a philosophy of continuing learning and mentoring each other
to present new concepts,” said Jenrette, grinning like a proud father.
“I think we’re top dogs.”
Friday, April 30, 2010