Interdisciplinary Oncology Education: a National Survey of Trainees and Program Directors in the United States

J Cancer Educ. 2018 Jun;33(3):622-626. doi: 10.1007/s13187-016-1139-6.


Oncologists must have a strong understanding of collaborating specialties in order to deliver optimal cancer care. The objective of this study was to quantify current interdisciplinary oncology education among oncology training programs across the USA, identify effective teaching modalities, and assess communication skills training. Web-based surveys were sent to oncology trainees and program directors (PDs) across the USA on April 1, 2013 and October 8, 2013, respectively. Question responses were Yes/No, five-point Likert scales (1 = not at all, 2 = somewhat, 3 = moderately, 4 = quite, 5 = extremely), or free response. Respondents included the following (trainees/PDs): 254/55 medical oncology, 160/42 surgical oncology, 102/24 radiation oncology, and 41/20 hospice and palliative medicine (HPM). Trainees consistently reported lower rates of interdisciplinary education for each specialty compared with PDs as follows: medical oncology 57 vs. 77% (p < 0.01), surgical oncology 30 vs. 44% (p < 0.01), radiation oncology 70 vs. 89% (p < 0.01), geriatric oncology 19 vs. 30% (p < 0.01), and HPM 55 vs. 74% (p < 0.01). The predominant teaching method used (lectures vs. rotations vs. tumor board attendance vs. workshop vs. other) varied according to which discipline was being taught. The usefulness of each teaching method was rated statistically different by trainees for learning about select disciplines. Furthermore, statistically significant differences were found between PDs and trainees for the perceived usefulness of several teaching modalities. This study highlights a deficiency of interdisciplinary education among oncology training programs in the USA. Efforts to increase interdisciplinary education opportunities during training may ultimately translate into improved collaboration and quality of cancer care.

Keywords: Communication; Graduate Medical Education; Hospice care; Medical oncology; Patient care team; Radiation oncology; Surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / standards*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Internship and Residency / standards*
  • Medical Oncology / education*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Palliative Medicine / education*
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Training Support
  • United States