University of Calgary - Radiation Oncology - Calgary


Program Director

Dr. Shaun Loewen


Program Administrator

Melissa Watkins

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  • The Radiation Oncology Residency Training Program at the University of Calgary was established in 2002 and is recognized for its excellent clinical exposure, providing 2 preceptors to 1 trainee 8-week rotations through the majority of core Radiation Oncology training.

  • Formal academic half-day teaching with a 2-year curriculum, dedicated medical physics training course in PGY1/2, and an advanced treatment planning course in PGY3/4 provides a suitable didactic learning environment.

  • Our program incorporates a CanMEDs lecture series to individually address non-medical expert competencies through a structured learning approach.

  • Our residents are competitive for research awards and have excellent funding support for education courses and to attend conferences throughout training. Our graduates have been successful in securing staff employment in both academic and community-based work environments.

  • Our program recently secured additional funding for equipment and renovations to our resident workplace until the public opening of the new Cancer Centre in 2023. Please visit this website, for more information on the Calgary Cancer Centre.

Living in Calgary:

  • Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and fourth largest census metropolitan area in Canada with 1.4 million people.

  • Calgary sits in the sunny eastern foothills of Canada's Rocky Mountains in the heart of Alberta, where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet. It is the major urban centre for the entire southern half of the province of Alberta and is surrounded by an area of profound beauty of boundless nature and mountain vistas.

  • The city experiences warm summers and cold, dry winters. However, winter temperature can often rise by 20 to 30 degrees due to warm, dry Chinook winds that blow eastward into Alberta from the Rocky Mountains. Calgary is the sunniest city in Canada with an average of 332.9 sun-filled days. The highest average afternoon temperature from December to February is -1.41°C, but temperature highs do fluctuate during winter.

  • Fun Facts: Ginger beef and the Caeser beverage were invented in Calgary. Fish Creek Park is the 2nd largest urban park in Canada. The Calgary Stampede, first held in 1886, is billed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” and renowned for its hospitality. There are more than 1000 free breakfasts held during the 10-day event that can be found using a smart phone app.

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How many trainees enter the program each year?

Our program accepts one trainee to enter the program though the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) each year. Residency training is 5 years. With over a 4:1 ratio of staff to trainees, our program is not dependent on residents for clinical service. This means that our trainees have excellent education experiences throughout their training without excessive clinical service demands.

How competitive is it to match to your program?

Each year, our program receives 30-50 applications and interviews up to 20 applicants for 1 residency position. For the last 3 years, there have been more CaRMS applicants who have chosen our specialty as their first choice of discipline than available positions in Radiation Oncology training programs across Canada with all positions matched in the 1st iteration. The average 3-year national match rate for first choice of discipline applicants was 85%.

What are you looking for in competitive applicants?

The selection process has two phases: 1) a ranked score of the CaRMS application to select applicants for interview, and 2) a ranked score of the interview. Both the application and interview scores are used to determine the program’s submitted rank list.

Impressive candidates typically demonstrate empathy, maturity, strong clinical and interpersonal communication skills, leadership experience, and the ability to self-reflect for personal and professional growth. Candidates have explored Radiation Oncology with one or more electives and submit reference letters from Radiation Oncologists with whom they have worked with. Past research and/or teaching experience is helpful, but not necessary.

Is there a difficult job market in Radiation Oncology following training?

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada performed a longitudinal study examining the employment patterns of newly certified specialists and subspecialists and the factors underlying their unemployment. Their updated 2019 report identified Radiation Oncology as one of 14 disciplines with employment challenges.

Three-quarters of practicing Radiation Oncologists in Canada work in academic environments and most Radiation Oncology graduates perform fellowship training to enhance their research productivity and be more competitive in the job market. Therefore, employment outcomes at the time of certification after residency training may not be the best representative endpoint for our specialty.

It is important to acknowledge that some graduates have experienced employment difficulties, but the post-training employment situation is improving due to concerted efforts to regulate trainee intake and evidence of rising retirement numbers from the workforce. For example, staff employment outcomes improved from 54% of graduates within one year of residency training in a 2018 survey to 89% in 2020. Alberta expects to see 40% of its Radiation Oncology workforce retire within the next 10 years and workforce expansion will need to occur to meet rising demands for radiotherapy services with increased capacity to manage more cancer patients. Alberta produces 2 Radiation Oncologists per year from two training programs, but the projected demand is estimated to require 3-4 providers per year in Alberta. The employment situation in Radiation Oncology is expected to steadily improve over time.