Pediatric oncologists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of children and young adults with cancer. In addition to completing their medical school and residency requirements, pediatric oncologists receive specialized training to diagnose and treat conditions like malignant melanomas, Hodgkin’s disease, stomach cancer and bone tumors. Pediatric oncologists use treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy to help children and young adults recover from cancer. Pediatric oncology training can take up to 10 years to complete.
After completing four years of medical school, pediatric oncologists spend an additional six years in general residency and pediatric oncology training. Similar to other physicians, pediatric oncologists must complete their undergraduate education in any field and pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Undergraduates are encouraged to take courses in pre-medicine such as biology, organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology and microbiology. Students who successfully pass the MCAT can enroll into an accredited four-year medical school.
Graduates from a four-year medical school must complete additional residency training requirements in pediatric medicine. Medical residency is a paid on-the-job training program designed to equip medical students with practical experience in patient care. Medical residency can take between three to six years, depending on the area of specialization. Residents work at university hospitals under the supervision of licensed physicians. Residency training includes clinical rotations, seminars and independent research. Some medical students spend one year as interns before starting their residency training.
Pediatric oncology residency programs run for three years. Residents who take part in pediatric oncology training spend their rotations in clinical research and must take part in laboratory research. Trainees are matched with faculty members who share their interest; residents must also take part in lectures and conferences. To qualify for pediatric oncology residency, candidates must first complete their residency training in pediatrics. In addition, applicants must complete all their medical prerequisite training requirements before they can be considered for a pediatric oncology residency program.
Depending on the program, residents can extend their studies in subspecialty fields in pediatric oncology like pediatric hematology-oncology, pediatric coagulation specialist training or pediatric health services research. These programs require between one to two additional years of residency training. The training includes laboratory research work as well as participation in patient care. The American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology offers various fellowships for specialized research in pediatric oncology. Other areas of subspecialty research in pediatric oncology include studies on the Epstien-Barr virus, hematopoietic growth factors, cell cycle regulation and the relationship between gene mutations and drug resistance.