Board-certified specialty training program in radiation oncology in a war-torn country: Challenges, solutions and outcomes

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Clin Transl Radiat Oncol


Background: Residency programs leading to board certification are important for safe and competent Radiation Oncology (RO) practice. In some developing nations, there is a gap in this field. This work addresses the experience that was accomplished to establish such a program in Iraq despite all the challenges that faces a country under war.

Methods: Descriptive report of challenges faced in a developing country that is still reeling from war, the steps taken to overcome these challenges and outcomes after graduation of two classes.

Results: After over 18 months of prerequisite technical and logistical preparations, a group of local and external faculty members were invited to establish the required syllabus of a structured RO residency program in Iraq. It is comprised of a total of 100 post-graduate academic credits over a 48-months period after clinical internship. First year evaluations included regular practical assessments; seven in-house papers covering RO, cancer and radiation biology, medical physics, radiological anatomy and diagnostic oncology, tumor pathology, onco-pharmacology, and medical statistics, research methodology, and cancer epidemiology, followed by a comprehensive examination. Subsequent evaluations were on an annual bases with enrollment in the American College of Radiology In-Training examination in RO. Final assessment included logbook and skills' reviews, graduation thesis or peer-review publication, two-papers' written examination, and an exit practical examination.

Conclusions: Given the political, economic and social difficulties in post-war Iraq, it was a major challenge to establish a residency program in RO. Despite the significant difficulties, the first residency program leading to board certification in RO was successfully started in Iraq. The new specialists will help in addressing the shortage of radiation oncologists in the country.

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