Fostering Radiation Oncology Physician Scientist Trainees Within a Diverse Workforce: The Radiation Oncology Research Scholar Track.

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There is a need to foster future generations of radiation oncology physician scientists, but the number of radiation oncologists with sufficient education, training, and funding to make transformative discoveries is relatively small. A large number of MD/PhD graduates have entered he field of radiation oncology over the past 2 decades, but this has not led to a significant cohort of externally funded physician scientists. Because radiation oncologists leading independent research labs have the potential to make transformative discoveries that advance our field and positively affect patients with cancer, we created the Duke Radiation Oncology Research Scholar (RORS) Program. In crafting this program, we sought to eliminate barriers preventing radiation oncology trainees from becoming independent physician scientists. The RORS program integrates the existing American Board of Radiology Holman Pathway with a 2-year post-graduate medical education instructor position with 80% research effort at the same institution. We use a separate match for RORS and traditional residency pathways, which we hope will increase the diversity of our residency program. Since the inception of the RORS program, we have matched 2 trainees into our program. We encourage other radiation oncology residency programs at peer institutions to consider this training pathway as a means to foster the development of independent physician scientists and a diverse workforce in radiation oncology.





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Salama, Joseph K, Scott R Floyd, Christopher G Willett and David G Kirsch (2021). Fostering Radiation Oncology Physician Scientist Trainees Within a Diverse Workforce: The Radiation Oncology Research Scholar Track. International journal of radiation oncology, biology, physics, 110(2). pp. 288–291. 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2020.12.050 Retrieved from

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Joseph Kamel Salama

Professor of Radiation Oncology

I have the privilege to be the Chief of the Durham VA Radiation Oncology Service, where I care for veterans who have served our country. I am a dedicated educator, serving as the Residency Program Director for the Duke Radiation Oncology Residency Program.  I am also a cancer researcher developing novel treatment techniques for patients with head and neck cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and those limited metastatic disease, and integration of these treatments with drug therapies. 


Scott Richard Floyd

Gary Hock and Lyn Proctor Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology

Diseases of the brain carry particular morbidity and mortality, given the fundamental function of the brain for human life and quality of life. Disease of the brain are also particularly difficult to study, given the complexity of the brain. Model systems that capture this complexity, but still allow for experiments to test therapies and mechanisms of disease are badly needed.  We have developed an experimental model system that uses slices made from rat and mouse brains to create a test platform to research new treatments for brain diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease and brain tumors. This model system reduces the number of experimental animals used, and streamlines experiments so that final testing in laboratory animals is more efficient. We use this brainslice system and limited numbers of experimental animals to test drugs and genetic pathways to treat stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease and brain tumors. As many brain tumors are treated with radiation therapy, we have a particular interest in the cellular response to DNA damage caused by radiation. DNA damage signaling and repair are fundamental processes necessary for cells to maintain genomic integrity. Problems with these processes can lead to cancer. As many cancer cells have altered DNA damage and repair pathways, we can apply DNA damage as cancer therapy. Our knowledge of how normal and neoplastic cells handle DNA damage is still incomplete. A deeper understanding can lead to improved cancer treatment, and to better protection from the harmful effects of DNA damaging agents like radiation. To this end, we plan experiments that test the effects of radiation on normal animal tissues and animal models of cancer, as well as molecular pathways in brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and stroke.


Christopher G. Willett

Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology

David Guy Kirsch

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology

My clinical interests are the multi-modality care of patients with bone and soft tissue sarcomas and developing new sarcoma therapies. My laboratory interests include utilizing mouse models of cancer to study cancer and radiation biology in order to develop new cancer therapies in the pre-clinical setting.

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