Dalhousie University - Radiation Oncology - Halifax


Program Director

Dr. David Bowes


Academic Manager

Karen Watts

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  • Friendly and supportive training environment.

  • Excellent exposure to all of the latest technology (VMAT for most tumor sites, SRS/SBRT, HDR brachytherapy for prostate and gynecologic cancers).

  • Small program size allows us to “individualize” the resident experience.

  • Dedicated and intensive exam preparation for senior residents.

  • Mentorship program which provides resident with staff support with career planning, advice on work/life balance, and academic support.

  • Resident longitudinal clinic which provides the senior resident an opportunity to follow patients before, during, and after treatment. This leads to greater responsibility in decision making and the managerial aspects of clinical work.

  • For several years we have been doing a formalized introductory rotation to Radiation Oncology and a formalized rotation in transition to practice

  • Creative electives are encouraged in accordance with the resident’s career goals (brachytherapy, stereotactic radiotherapy, medical education, tumor sites, research, among other topics).

  • Rotation in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety as a senior resident.

  • Residents are fully engaged in all aspects of the administration and leadership of the residency program. Residents have taken the lead in identifying the need for, designing, and implementing new initiatives and other program improvements. We encourage our residents to take on leadership roles.

  • Our department is growing in terms of its support of scholarly activity; there are many opportunities for residents to take on interesting projects of their choosing.

  • We have been innovators in residency training in Radiation Oncology, and have published and presented much of our work nationally and internationally.

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We are committed to providing the best education possible for our residents. By completion of the program, residents will be well prepared for all aspects of practice in Radiation Oncology. Our graduates have gone on to practice in community and academic environments across Canada and globally.


What are the strengths of your program?

There is excellent access to technology, clinical experiences, and research opportunities. Our small size allows us to individualize training to each resident’s needs and career goals. We offer protected time to participate in brachytherapy procedures, scholarly activity, and a resident longitudinal clinic, which allows greater independence in decision making for senior residents. The program staff are friendly and responsive to resident needs.

We have recently implemented a number of successful new initiatives which have strengthened the resident experience, including “Introduction to Radiation Oncology” and “Transition to Practice” rotations. These rotations will be integrated into the new CBD structure. There is a rotation in quality improvement/patient safety, and we have improved the curriculum to better integrate basic sciences and the “intrinsic” CanMEDS roles.

We have a collegial group of residents who are fully involved in teaching and program improvement. Many program improvements have been driven at least in part by residents who have identified areas for improvement and have taken the opportunity to design these new initiatives. We have published and presented much of the work we have done in medical education at conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.

Do your residents get adequate exposure to clinical oncology?

The QEII Health Sciences Centre (of which the NSCC is a part) is the tertiary and quaternary referral centre for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Residents are exposed to all tumor sites and technical aspects of clinical oncology, including pediatrics, stereotactic radiotherapy, and brachytherapy. The experiences in Saint John provide excellent community exposure. Our residents leave the program very well prepared for clinical practice.

What research experiences are available?

The program assists with pairing a resident with an appropriate preceptor and project. There is a research block in Core, and residents are encouraged to have a project selected and preparatory work done in advance of this. There are active research and graduate student programs in the Department of Medical Physics, and this provides unique opportunities for collaboration. Completion of one project is mandatory, and if time allows, residents are encouraged to take on other projects. There is a Clinician Investigator Program (CIP) available through Dalhousie University, whereby research opportunities can be blended into training in a formalized way. Though participation in CIP would be encouraged, the Radiation Oncology training program does not manage admissions to CIP or provide financial support.

We recognize that scholarly activity can come in many forms. Residents may be interested in taking on scholarly projects in areas which are not traditionally considered as “research”. For example, residents in the past have participated in unique projects in medical education and quality assurance. We will work with you to help you find topics which are of interest to you.

What is the on-call experience like?

Residents on call cover the inpatient unit which is attached to the NSCC. The quota is 5 beds. Residents are also responsible for seeing consultations in the emergency department (which are infrequent) and dealing with outside calls from other physicians and from patients. Call is done from home, and usually is not busy (though there are exceptions). For off-service rotations, on-call experiences differ depending on the nature of the rotation. Residents will not be scheduled to be on-call in the six months leading up to the Royal College exams.

What is the rotation in Saint John like?

The Saint John rotation allows the resident to develop independence and become exposed to different treatment and teaching styles outside of the main centre. Saint John is home to the New Brunswick Campus of Dalhousie Medical School, and the cancer centre has access to a high level of modern technology. The Saint John centre is home to effective and enthusiastic teachers. Dalhousie University provides housing for residents within walking distance of the hospital. Saint John is close to Fundy National Park and is a historic city full of attractions.

How are residents prepared for the Royal College exam?

Our small program size allows to individualize exam preparation based on the resident’s learning style and needs. A series of oral and written exams are scheduled throughout training, and as the resident approaches exams, he or she is provided with opportunities to complete exam sessions one on one with faculty. The resident’s mentor plays a major role in helping the resident prepare for exams. Residents are also funded to attend the national exam prep course in their final year.