Getting an oncology fellowship means pursuing highly specialized training in medicine. Not everyone can apply for these fellowships because of their requirements. Moreover, many programs that offer an oncology fellowship will only accept doctors who are already specialists in internal medicine. Thus a lot of preparation goes into this final training element that helps doctors work with patients who have cancer.
As with any medical specialty, in the US, students will first need to obtain an undergraduate degree, usually in pre-med. They’ll need good grades and good scores on the medical college admission test (MCAT) so they can apply and be accepted to medical school. Once in medical school, they typically complete a four-year program that allows them to become licensed as doctors.
For those doctors who want an oncology fellowship, the next step may be applying to a program to train in internal medicine, which takes about two to four years to complete. At point of completion or slightly before, doctors can begin looking at the various teaching hospitals that offer oncology fellowships. There are quite a few hospital programs, but acceptance may depend upon the assessment the student has thus far garnered in residency, and on strong letters of recommendation. How a student assembles his/her curriculum vitae (like a resume), what experiences he or she has had, and even grades in medical school may influence decisions on what fellowship programs will accept him or her.
Though the specialization in internal medicine is required in some fellowship programs, it is not required in all. Students should decide, before the close of medical school, the direction that appears best for them. There may be advantages to having internal medicine training but among its disadvantages is length of time it will then take before practicing the doctor’s chosen profession. However, with training as an internist, students do have more choices when it comes to applying to oncology fellowship programs.
Sometimes when the question of how to get an oncology fellowship is asked, it really applies to a summer training program usually offered for medical school students interested in oncology. There are a few of these programs available. Like the standard oncology fellowship, they may require good grades and strong recommendations. Certainly the student interested in specializing in oncology might most benefit from one of these programs, and participation could look very good on a curriculum vitae when it comes to getting into competitive oncology fellowships later.